Monday, May 26, 2014

In honor of Memorial Day ... lessons from the Trunk.

I can remember many times as a kid I would sit on the floor of the Pink Room and look through the trunk. I would sit for hours looking at papers and photos encased in what I consider to be our family’s museum. You see, this trunk is no simple trunk. It was my great grandfather “Pap” Robertson’s WW1 trunk.  Inside I found his military record and Army song book published in 1917 and 1918. I found Pawpaw Cole’s tee tiny Navy sailor uniform and Mawmaw Cole’s wedding suit, and I’ve discovered more and more about my great Uncle Cassie Ray Robertson, who was my grandmothers older brother. 

Pap's Military Record from WW1
I mentioned in the first post about the house that there have been many tears shed and sad times at the house, and Uncle Cassie Ray was the source of a lot of those. At the age of 20 while serving in the US Army 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division outside of Bologna Italy, my Great Uncle Cassie Ray was caught inside a house that the German’s attacked in November of 1944. It was originally reported to my great grandparents via a Western Union telegram that he was “Missing in Action” After 12 months with no reports that he was captured by the Germans or evidence of life (as one of the letters from the Department of War states), he was then labeled as “Killed in Action.” His remains have never been found, but he is memorialized at the Florence National Cemetery in Florence, Italy.  PFC Cassie Ray Robertson was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. 

The Western Union Telegram notifying my great grandparents that Cassie Ray was Missisng In Action.
A letter written to my great grandparents by my Uncle Cassie Ray just days before the place he was in was attacked and destroyed. According to the US Government, his was presumed dead as of November 25, 1944.
I have learned from talking to family members and reading some letters in the trunk that my Mammaw Ruth always held out hope that he was still alive. She corresponded with one of Cassie Ray’s military companions, Everett Gregory, who was one of the last to see him alive for years and years. She continued to write letters years after his presumed death to seek information and updates, but never received anything but bad news. His picture always hung up in the house, and will go back on the wall once the renovations are complete. Like any loving mother, she always held out hope of her son’s return… and as I sit here and my heart hurts for all the sorrow and pain she felt in losing Cassie Ray in 1944, and later her son Clyde in 1953, I am crying yet smiling at the thought of the reunion she had with her boys in 1975 when she entered Glory. All that hope she maintained, and those questions she asked were finally answered when she saw him again. 
This is a letter written to my Mamaw Ruth Robertson in 1949, she was still seeking answers about her son's "death" 5 years later...

Like many families, my family has a rich history of military service, and I am so thankful and proud of those who served our country selflessly. I praise the Lord that all but one of those men came home to their families (even for just a short while in Uncle Clyde’s case) safely. In honor of Memorial Day I wanted to share Cassie Ray’s story… he is one of thousands who have not come home, but more so who have never been found. I am thankful that sitting down once again to look through this trunk has reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a country in which generations before us have fought, bled, and died so that we could enjoy the freedoms that we do. 

Always remember to pray for those who serve, for the families they leave behind, and for their safe return. 

Love Y’all,

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