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This Memorial Day Remember Losing a Family Member to War Is Life Altering ... My Family Knows First Hand

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Memorial Day often is confused with Veteran's Day. People show their appreciation to those serving or who have served in the military who are still living. While that is a beautiful sentiment, and one Americans should offer every day to those who serve, Memorial Day is about honoring those who lost their lives serving this great nation. Those who 'gave all'. To many families, this is a day to gather and grill hot dogs and burgers. To my family, we remember my uncle lost in Vietnam. 

My Uncle, Major Kenneth P. Tanner, died in Operation Ripcord. It was rare for people of his rank to die. Sadly, the younger lower ranking soldiers were the ones who most often lost their lives. My Uncle left behind four children under the age of 5 and a devoted wife. 

Major Kenneth P. Tanner also participated in the planning session, having been assigned from the division G3 shop only the day before to take over as Lucas’s S3. “Tanner was a tall, cheerful, red-headed infantryman just bursting with enthusiasm for his assignment to a line battalion,” said Herb Koenigsbauer, who spent several hours with Tanner in the division mess facility at Camp Eagle, bringing him up to speed on how the battalion operated. Tanner then flew to Camp Evans, “and from what I understand,” noted Koenigsbauer, “he dropped his bags in the hootch the exec and operations officer shared in the battalion rear area, and without even unpacking, immediately caught a chopper out to Ripcord.

Our family is blessed to have a bit of an account of his last days from other officers present in those planning sessions that shared memories with this military site. Reading on down the page, it gives details of his last moments and it's admittedly difficult to read. My family does feel knowing is better than wondering, though.

My mother was the one who saw the soldiers pulling up to the house to notify my family my Uncle was gone. She was 16 and they had just arrived home from church. The church (and we still attend this church) was a close knit community and several neighbors who also attended saw the officers pull up to notify the family. Before the family really even knew details, the phone tree to to support them had begun because people just knew. My Mom rushed to close the curtains, hopeful my Aunt, his wife, had not seen the cars pull up. My mom preferred to tell her they were there and give her some warning. This was a tremendous amount of empathy for a teen like my Mom. She said to my aunt 'there is a military car in the driveway with two officers'. My Aunt told her not to open the door. My Mom told her they had to. Eventually my Aunt agreed, and when they opened it, my Aunt's only words were 'just tell me he is alive'. The officer apologized and told her he could not tell her that, and my Mom said after that it was all a blur. Within minutes, the church had members there to take the children to lessen their initial trauma, to cook and clean for my family, and to basically care for every basic physical need. The love of the Body of Christ is one thing my Mom really remembers to this day. That kind of loss changes a family forever.

Today, remember the families who were indelibly changed from the loss of a loved one. Families that gave all, as well. A Blessed Memorial Day to all, and particularly to those who truly gave all and to those who loved them.


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