Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day: A Family History

Today is Armed Forces Day, so I am going to talk about ancestors and other relatives who have served in the military forces of the United States.

On my father's side, I can trace back to a Revolutionary War ancestor, Richards Packard.  He enlisted in Massachusetts at the age of 17, in 1780, and serve two enlistments.  We don't have any War of 1812 ancestors in this line, because in around 1796, Richards Packard headed up to Canada, not because of any change of heart after the war, but because in Canada, in Quebec, the government was giving land away without much worry about who they were giving it to!  He found farmland to his liking, and settled in the area of present-day Georgeville.  His movements after the Revolution had a northward trend, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, up into Northern Vermont, and then into Canada.  I guess he was more picky about his land than about the winter climate!

My great-great grandfather Mathew Hale Packard "retro-migrated" back to the U.S. in around 1850, settling first in Chautauqua County, New York.  He is enumerated there in the federal 1850 and 1860 censuses and in the 1855 New York state census.  He was still in New York in the 1860s, and there enlisted in a cavalry regiment for the Civil War.  On the other side of the family, another great-great grandfather, Charles Reed, served in an Indiana infantry regiment.  Both men suffered more from illness than from combat action, neither having been wounded, but both feeling effects of disease.  Both received pensions based on disability; Matthew Hale Packard didn't benefit from his for long, for he died in 1881.  Charles Reed lived, in poverty, until 1920.

I don't have any record of anyone in World War I.  My maternal grandfather Perry Reed was a railroad freight agent, and therefore in an occupation of national security importance, so he wasn't drafted.  My paternal grandfather ran a dairy; I don't know if he had any particular deferment; I haven't looked for the draft  registration status of either one of these yet.  Just haven't had time.

My father, Arden Packard, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1929, right out of high school.  A year later, he took a competitive exam and won entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy (the way serving sailors got in).  He graduated from the Academy in 1934, served on aircraft carriers, and finally got to indulge a passion of his childhood and youth -- he entered flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1937.  It was in Pensacola that he met my mother.  He was medically retired in about 1939; in 1941 -- several months before Pearl Harbor -- he was called back to active duty.  He was restricted to limited flying because of his medical condition, but became a flight instructor.  Despite the limitations on his flying, he was rated in one fitness report among the top 5% of Naval aviators!

My brother, Arden Packard II ("Ned"), enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1960, after he graduated from high school.  I can imagine what our father, who died in 1954, would have thought of that.  Daddy taught his dog, Smoky (registered name Ceiling Zero) a couple tricks which indicated his opinion.  He would set two identical bowls of dog food down, calling one "Navy chow" and the other "Marine chow."  Smoky went for the "Navy chow" every time.  He would say to the dog, "Smoky, which would you rather be -- a dead dog or a Marine?"  The dog would roll over on her back, all four legs in the air.

When I was a little girl back in the 1950s, I was unconventional.  Alas, I grew up in an all-too-conventional family.  When I expressed a desire to go into the Navy, my mother and brother were aghast and absolutely prohibited it.  "Nice" girls didn't do such things.  When my husband and I got married, he was in the Coast Guard.  I saw what fun he was having -- he really did enjoy it -- and said I wanted to share in the fun.  "Sure," he said.  His confidence in me (and in my sense of honor and self-respect) enabled me to do what I had been blocked from doing earlier on.  I enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve 3 February 1976 as a yeoman third class, becoming the first woman in my family to serve in the military. When I had to stand down in 1991 because I had developed arthritis, I was a lieutenant (junior grade).  I had been selected for lieutenant, but did not get to advance.

Happy Armed Forces day to all serving members and to all veterans!

No comments: