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War: A Military Family
Every nation has a birth and a destiny, a mission to fulfill in the evolution of humanity. America, whose collective voice would become a paean to personal freedom, began to define and expand its borders while still a colony of Great Britain. The French and Indian War of 1754 expanded the colony to the Mississippi River. The United States emerged out of the conflict, pain and sacrifice of the Revolutionary War. Further expansion occurred through the Northwest Ordinance of 1803, the acquisition of Florida and New Orleans in the War of 1812, and the acquisition of Texas in 1836. In 1845 John O'Sullivan wrote "It is our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self government entrusted to us." The United States declared war on Mexico in 1846 and the western states were acquired, the last being Arizona through the Gadsden Purchase. When the Civil War ended the United States had again freed itself from shackles of the past.
Along the rocky road in this great experiment of liberty the population greatly increased and the social order began to refine the definitions and deeds of freedom and service. The citizens must devote a certain portion of their lives to serving the nation and community
, to assuming the mantle of a national rather than a personal role. Only in light of continuing service to nation and community can there be any experience of freedom. Freedom can be defined as the time and means for individual expression and contribution. As in so many other areas of life there is the necessity to consciously balance two extremes or poles, in this case service and freedom. Can there be any viable experience of one without the other?
If Providence has allowed for liberty, and not only in the United States but increasingly in other nations, what then would be the next step in human evolvement? What is to emerge from this pole, this sphere of freedom? At the beginning of the twenty first century it seems easier to list what ought not to emerge. The next step is certainly the quest
for higher forms of individual attainment in the work of the redemption of humanity and Earth from past conditions of darkness, conflict and war.
Briefly, national, state and community service can be broadly defined as including government and law, defense and the military, agriculture, medicine, support of family and basic education
, and all forms of employment that genuinely benefit society. Freedom can be defined as including the arts and sciences, leisure and avocational activities, and religion and spirituality. When activities of freedom become means of financial support they can enter areas of deep shadow in which they are neither beneficial nor truly free. They may even be harmful, as is often the case in the entertainment and publishing industries. Excessive freedom in such service occupations as housing and clothing has led to luxury homes and the fashion industry as well as to inflation, the indicator of imbalance in give and take.
The family introduced in War: A Military Family
is that of the author (Martha, who uses the pen name Jan Forbes), and the book might be described as a kind of objectified account of self and family, but not without personal remembrances. The personal qualities are after all what family life is all about and what the family protects and holds sacred. However, poor, sad, mortal, personal life inevitably has elements of failure and tragedy difficult to confront. The great appeal of genealogy must surely be that it enables the researcher to rise above the subjective immersion in one's self and family and acquire a higher, hence freeing view of self and family as part of humanity. "Rise above" becomes the key phrase as the aim and focus of this book is to reveal how the quintessential quest emerges or is suppressed in the lives that are described. Clearly, the quest cannot come to light in conflict and war. Nevertheless, it gleams unmistakably at all times as a potential. The second section of the book departs from the Myers family and describes individuals known to the author during the 1960's the offspring of the war generation and beyond, especially those who failed in the quest, and thus failed their forerunners
, the war generation who sacrificed their lives. No blame or criticism is imparted, but rather an attempt to understand why the quest was not only inadequately expressed, but often lost altogether from view or consciousness, and if retained in philosophical or spiritual reflection and awareness, why it could not become an effective force in so called ordinary or everyday life. The author in youth seems to bridge a gap between two generations. True to the family lineage, she served in the military between 1961 and 1964 (serving in the "Underground Pentagon" at Fort Ritchie, Maryland during the "Thirteen Days" of the Cuban crisis, and at the Pentagon and Fort Myer, Virginia at the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; witnessing Kennedy's burial at Arlington National Cemetery) and then not at all a military type did an about face and went on the quest. Only later in life was it realized that the military experience had not been a mistake, but was essential for the work that was to be.
Lastly, there is no intention to condone war and military excesses. The sad fact remains that war constitutes a very large portion of human history. By the twentieth century it is abysmally outdated, but rages on destructively with the lives of soldiers and citizens at the mercy of dubious causes and purposes. It has become increasingly important for historians to look past the complex surface movements of militarism and war and reveal the hidden motives and manipulators. It is stated in the book Crimes Against Humanity
, by Geoffrey Robertson, a British barrister, (New Press NY, 2000) that 160 million people were wasted by war, genocide and torture in the twentieth century.
A social order is needed that will prevent victimization of those who serve and those who seek to contribute in perfect freedom, freedom from any power or authority. Sustainment of well being for the nation and the globe depends upon service, but redemption and salvation, those critical next steps in human evolution, depend upon deeds of true freedom.
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"Set your course by the stars and not
by the lights of every passing ship."
Omar N. Bradley
The father in this family of six can almost be said to be service personified, as harsh circumstances of childhood and youth drove him to enlist in the United States Army at the age of sixteen. Military service became synonymous with survival, and as this service expanded into a career, natural independence, self education and financial security ensued. During World War II he rose in rank to "full bird" colonel, and in retirement would often reflect that, had he been more fortunate in youth, with parental support and further education, the West Point Military Academy might have been within his means; he might have advanced as far in rank as general. These reflections confirm that he believed military life to have been his destiny, no matter the early circumstances.
Raymond Henry Myers was born in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio on July 7, 1894. Social Security records give his birthdate as 1892 because he claimed to be older when he enlisted in the army in 1911, hastily acquiring parents' permissions with the signatures of accommodating strangers. His father was Louis Myers and his mother was Ora Hendrickson. Very little is known about this family that is not anecdotal. Attempts to uncover the ancestry and biography of Louis Myers have not been successful. He is said to have been a German immigrant who earned a living as a salesman. Louis and Ora had one other son after Raymond named Leroy, who always preferred to be called Roy. At some point when the boys were still young, Louis abandoned the family
, left Xenia and was never seen again. Ora eventually re married and had several more children. The stepfather's name has not survived anywhere in the family records. Raymond recalled painfully that his mother and stepfather seemed to love and favor Roy, perhaps because he was "cute," whereas it is difficult to imagine from Raymond's earliest photograph, with its somber, mature face, that he had ever been "cute" as a child, and indeed, in later life, that he had ever been a child at all. Even though he himself would have four children and two stepsons, he was never in any way a natural family man, and though dutiful and responsible, he was emotionally austere. Ora died tragically, through either a miscarriage or an attempted abortion
, while only in her thirties. It was probably after her death that Raymond had the horrible experience of being hung upside down over a well by an "insane aunt." It is not surprising that Raymond left school, sought work and eventually ran away from home.
One of Raymond's early jobs must have been in a bakery or restaurant as he developed a lifelong love of baking and cooking. In later years he would recall that he had often considered restaurant ownership for a living. He never gave up his joy in creating dishes and menus. According to his military records, another of his pre enlistment jobs was as "laborer." He once related a story of working long hours at hard labor in order to be able to afford a warm overcoat that was soon stolen.
In addition to an underlying melancholy, Raymond had a relaxed demeanor and a rich sense of humor and the origins of these latter characteristics can only be surmised in view of his unhappy childhood. The best guess may be that he and Roy mingled and identified with friendly, turn of the century gamblers, drifters and hoboes, those admired men of ease and freedom who played billiards and bet on horses at the racetracks. The mythos that emerged around this lifestyle must have taken hold of their souls, even though the results would not be apparent until much later in life. Like neglected children the world over, they looked outside of their family for sustenance and in the morally milder times in which they grew up, they gradually came to learn that they could beat the odds no matter how much was stacked against them. After Ray enlisted he did not see his brother again for some thirty years. They were to be reunited by Roy's wife, Helen Purcell Myers, who had been a concert pianist. Roy was then the owner of a poolroom, while Ray had come to love poker and horse racing. Roy had suffered a serious accident and had a glass eye.
Early military records of Private Myers reveal the following: Company M
, 28th Infantry from 4 24 11 to 4 23 14; Company B, 27th Infantry 8 15 14 to 3 16 17 (Philippine Islands). During the second enlistment a significant emergency assignment was with the Punitive Expedition of 1916, led by Brigadier General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. The aim was to "get Villa," or Pancho Villa (1878 1923), bandido
of the Mexican revolution. The history and details of this expedition were published in the Elks Magazine
, in February 1989, by Raymond's son, John, and is reprinted in this section in part on page 20. Raymond would learn he was not a natural fighter or infantryman ("I had a glass jaw," he would say) and by his third enlistment the army proved accommodating and gave him other assignments. He would always consider the army "fair," in addition to providing "three square meals a day."
A story he related about his fellow soldiers in the Punitive Expedition is very interesting, especially in view of his interest in destiny. It seems that the harsh circumstances that drove him to enlist early, at the age of sixteen, may have saved his life. When the Expedition was completed, his second enlistment period was due to end within six months. Therefore, in the midst of the raging World War I, he was not sent to Europe with the 27th Infantry. Later he learned that all of his friends from the Expedition had been killed.
When he re enlisted for the third time late in 1917, he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps, and was sent to Russia as a guard on the Trans Siberian Railway. President Woodrow Wilson sent the expeditionary force to Siberia and the Russian Far East under the command of Major General William S. Graves for the purpose of protecting allied shipments carried by the railway. The great railroad had earlier been repaired by American railway men under Benjamin Oliver Johnson
, who had been a superintendent of the Northern Pacific Railway. The American troops guarded only small sections of the railroad "from Mysovsk, on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, to Verkhneudinsk and the section between Imam and Vladivostok." (See Trans Siberian Railway in the World History
, by Frederick C. Giffin, on the internet.)
After the war Raymond became a Disciplinary Barracks Guard, Pacific Branch, with a promotion to Corporal in June 1919, and was assigned to Alcatraz Prison. In 1853 the army had constructed a military fortress on Alcatraz Island and soldiers of the Civil War and Spanish American War were confined there. Following the destruction of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Alcatraz received hundreds of civilian prisoners. The prison was at near capacity by the 1920's. According to JoAnn
, Raymond's oldest daughter, he was very popular with the prisoners at Alcatraz because he was kind and would save cigarettes and sandwiches for them, especially those in solitary confinement who were normally given nothing but bread and water. Because of his natural kindness and friendliness, he proved to be the only guard who could walk into the midst of an unruly group of prisoners, break them up and send them back to their cells. As noted earlier, Raymond had a side to his nature that was easy going and humorous and it is difficult to surmise how these traits could have been acquired in his youth. They became over time an extremely important part of his self image, as though he had made up his mind not to be embittered or negatively affected by the hardships of his early life in Xenia.
, 1923 Raymond re enlisted after discharge and was assigned to the Finance Department. By this time he and the army had definitely refined his aptitudes. Apparently however, he was required to sacrifice his corporal rank upon leaving the Guard Corps. He soon made up for this loss in rank, serving in the Finance Department from 1923 to 1929, where he slowly advanced his career.
There was a first, unsuccessful marriage to an older woman (her name has not survived) during the mid 1920's and it soon ended in divorce. Raymond, however, did not tell his second wife about this first marriage until many years after they had been married.
Raymond certainly crisscrossed the United States several times on various military orders. Travel and constant change were by this time becoming a stimulus he could not live without. "Wherever I hang my hat, that's my home," he would say. He met his second wife on one of his northeastern assignments and he and Grace Frederick Tate were married on August 2, 1928 at Fort Niagara, New York. Private First Class Myers had been promoted to Technical Sergeant, Finance Department, on August 7, 1925. On April 30, 1926 he had received a diploma at Washington DC stating he had "Satisfactorily completed the Regular Course at the Finance School."
A son, Raymond John, was born on October 10, 1929 in San Francisco, California.
In the little spare time Raymond could find from army and family responsibilities, he liked to play poker with army buddies and later discovered horse racing. These leisure time activities must have recalled that mythos, that memory of those independent
, gambling men who always got the better of chance. He would continue to balance this very marginal mythos of freedom against a very weighty life of service.
As to his religious and spiritual beliefs, like many military officers (for example, George S. Patton) he was a firm believer in reincarnation. So firm was this belief that he was convinced he had retained a memory of his death by execution in a prior life. From a moral point of view, belief in reincarnation was beneficial, and the purpose of each life was to leave the world a better place to return to, with perhaps greater opportunity or advantage in the future life.
At some point during the two world wars he became a mason and this probably contributed to his belief in reincarnation and his profound musings on destiny. Unfortunately, with the advent of World War II he was not able to continue active masonry and did not pursue it again upon retirement. His love of travel, his compulsion for travel, his exhaustion, broke many potentially positive bonds and commitments.
In the early 1930's Technical Sergeant Myers, together with his wife and son, was again stationed in the Philippines. The United States had gained possession of the islands following the Spanish American War of 1898 and the Philippine American War, from 1899 to 1901. William Howard Taft (1857 1930) had been the Philippines' first civilian governor. It was while in the Philippines that Raymond would later recall "burning the midnight oil
," or undertaking self education to improve his mathematics and accounting skills.
By early 1933 the family had returned to the United States and a daughter, JoAnn Elizabeth, was born on February 23, 1933, in Watertown, New York. Now Raymond and the family were frequently crisscrossing the United States. JoAnn said that at the age of 18 months she went with her family through the Panama Canal to get from the east to the west coast of the United States. After two or three years on one assignment, Raymond and Grace would pack or ship the family's possessions and they would all travel by car (or boat) to yet another military base. In 1937, after passing an examination, Raymond was promoted to Warrant Officer Junior Grade. Warrant Officer is defined as an intermediate rank between a noncommissioned and commissioned officer. His assignments during this period included Madison Barracks, New York and Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
With the advent of World War II, travel, promotion and responsibility escalated. During the early months of the war, on May 12, 1942, he was promoted from Chief Warrant Officer to "Temporary Major." This was while he was assigned to the Holabird Quartermaster Motor Base at Baltimore, Maryland (and where he and his friends must have come to appreciate the proximity of Pimlico racetrack). A second daughter, Mary Frederick
, had been born on January 5, 1941 in Washington DC. A third daughter and last child, Martha Jean, was born on November 7, 1942 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Major Myers had been reassigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Found in his papers from this time period is a card stating that Major R.H. Myers had been made a Deputy Sheriff of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, signed by Charley Hutchens, Sheriff, January 20, 1943. Raymond no doubt made friends with the Oklahoma sheriff.
Grace eventually developed a preference for the Roman Catholic faith. This began when JoAnn and Mary were sent to a Catholic boarding school purely on account of its convenience. The three younger children because of frequent traveling and the temporary separation and subsequent marital troubles of their parents due to Raymond's wartime army assignments were several times boarded or "farmed out," always an extraordinarily difficult emotional experience for a child, the three daughters no exception. One of the separations caused Raymond to become briefly and not seriously involved with another woman, but Grace was devastated to learn of his infidelity, indeed, she was never to recover from it. She had lived for her marriage, she had lived for Raymond. According to JoAnn, at the time Grace learned of Raymond's infidelity she had taken some wine for extreme pain that resulted when a dentist accidentally broke the root of her tooth. From this point on, she was never able to stop drinking and suffered for the remainder of her brief life from episodic alcoholic blackouts. However, though not of any particular religious persuasion, Grace had given her four children biblical names: John, JoAnn, Mary and Martha. At some point in the midst of her troubles she had decided to convert to the Roman Catholic religion, only to learn during this difficult time of Raymond's first wife and his divorce, to learn that she could not become Catholic for this reason.
It is not clear from the records precisely when Raymond was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, but he is addressed by this rank in August, 1943. Meanwhile the records indicate assignment to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, Miami Beach, Florida and Durham
, North Carolina, the last a temporary assignment to attend Duke University for an "Advanced Fiscal Officer's Course." Later, Raymond would always be justifiably proud of the fact that he, who had barely received an elementary education, had attended Duke University.
Daughter Martha later surprised her father with a clear memory of arriving in Florida in 1944, where the family stayed for a night in a bungalow with a porch, bunk beds that had sand in them and that were placed in a room with a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, grey, humid weather and a neighbor's friendly collie dog. "Why, you were two years old!" he remarked, eyes widening as he was refreshed about the details of the arrival.
Lieutenant Colonel Myers was promoted to what he called "full-bird" Colonel sometime in 1948, when he was sent to Chicago as Chief of the Audit Division for the Office of the Fiscal Director.
After the Second World War ended with the horrendous dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Colonel Myers continued serving for several more years. Son Raymond John, age 17, enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1946. Three of Raymond's four children would enter the military service at a very young age with mixed success. Father honestly and understandably considered military service a valuable schooling in life that would also yield practical and financial rewards, especially during peacetime. Furthermore, it was an ideal way to get the kids out from under his feet as soon as they came of age. Raymond patiently counted the years and provided insurance - until each child was 17-18 and had graduated from high school. His method was then to push the fledglings out of the nest, certain they would learn to fly before hitting the ground. John learned to type in the service and was a clerk. He re-enlisted once and was discharged in 1951, missing the Korean War. Upon his arrival home, he brought two little bright-orange toy tanks for sisters Mary and Martha. These were not unusual gifts considering the girls had seen newsreels at the movies of a war-torn Berlin and Europe. Later there would be movies dramatizing the white flashes and unparalleled horror of atomic bomb explosions - from the beginning of the potential Armageddon
, Hollywood did not fail to capitalize on the dramatic possibilities of nuclear holocausts. Just another extended kindergarten fight in keeping with the usual level of social and artistic maturity.
Colonel Myers considered retiring from the army early in 1946, but faced the possibility of losing his rank with the customary peacetime rank reversion, in his case back to the Warrant Officer grade. He had already been through this experience when he lost his corporal rank upon leaving the Guard Corps at the end of World War I. From a letter to Colonel Myers by Major General William E. Shedd dated March 12, 1946: "The rapid mobilization of a vast Army during the most critical period in our national history called many men from their civilian pursuits to service with the Armed Forces. In many cases families were disrupted, businesses interrupted or closed, and the lives of individuals subjected to difficult adjustments. It is a matter of record and a source of pride to the War Department that these personal obstacles were overcome with a minimum effect on the overall pattern of our American way of life. The knowledge gained by you during your long career in the Regular Army enabled you to direct with distinction the audit activities of the Seattle district, and was invaluable in solving the diverse audit problems presented when you became Chief of the Audit Division in the Office of the Fiscal Director in this command. I regret that you find it necessary at this time to revert to your grade of Warrant Officer. The standards reflected in your contributions have been well within the ideals portrayed in Army policy, and will be a goal for similar accomplishment for those who remain in this field of Army endeavor. Again let me say that I sincerely appreciate your service and the efforts you put forth while on active duty with Headquarters Ninth Service Command."
However, in December 1946 Lieutenant Colonel Myers was discharged only from Warrant Officer status and became a Reserve Corps officer. Also through this means he was later only to lose the "full-bird" rank upon retirement. He continued service at Fort Douglas, Utah, in Geneva, New York, and as noted, at the Chicago Regional Office Army Audit Agency; also in Seattle, Washington at Fort Lawton
, and lastly with U.S. Army Alaska. He retired on June 15, 1949 and received on the same date the following letter from General Omar Bradley, Army Chief of Staff:
"Dear Colonel Myers:
This letter carries with it my best wishes as you retire from the Army after more than 36 years of loyal and devoted service to the nation. The Army has leaned heavily upon your abilities and judgment during your long enlisted, warrant, and commissioned service. When it called upon you in the late war to assume positions of greater responsibility, it found your wide background and experience to be of inestimable value. Your outstanding service in the important fiscal positions you have filled so capably was characteristic of the zeal and devotion to duty you have always given our country. You may be extremely proud of the fine record you leave behind. May success, happiness and prosperity be yours in the future.
Sincerely, Omar N. Bradley"
Would Raymond, now 54 years old, be able at last to pursue happiness, to pursue his emerging dream of creating a mathematical system that would beat the odds at the racetracks and provide additional money for his family now that he was retired? Would he have the time to again involve himself with masonry? Not likely, for his fragile wife Grace was to become seriously ill.
While Raymond was stationed in Alaska, he was again separated from his wife Grace and three daughters, who were then residing in Seattle, Washington. During this time, Grace, periodically free from her alcoholic episodes
, discovered a lump in her breast. The first doctor who examined her told her she had nothing to worry about and sent her home. A year or so later, this early negligence would prove fatal.
What is remembered of Seattle? Beautiful summers, with natural beaches and woods full of paths and small isolated pools of crab and fish, bitter cold winters; a walk, led by JoAnn, through an eerie, deserted army post that had been abandoned overnight when the men were sent to the Pacific war; starting and stopping school (Martha had to start the first grade over the following year) and the 1949 earthquake.
Martha, now six, had a memorable dream from this time: she was struggling to get out from under an overturned canoe and to her great relief, finally succeeded. Where was she? On an island in the center of which, some distance away, was a bungalow with a porch. Her family was standing on the porch, and were applauding her success in escaping the canoe
, but with complete indifference. Surrounding the island was a small stream full of sinister red crabs.
Not long after Raymond returned home, the family took a vacation and visited Redondo Beach, California, and then there was a long car trip across the country to "settle" in Baltimore, Maryland. There was an opportunity for the reunited family to begin anew and for Grace to overcome her alcoholism.
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