Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day is Every Day

I cringe when people say “Happy Memorial Day” the last Monday in May. Retail uses this day for special deal sales. I do see this special day, as a day to only remember those we have lost who have fought for our life of freedom here in the United States that is so unique from other countries that do not share this honor.

I grew up in a military family. My life and personality shows this. Both of my parents served in the U.S. Navy. I have been honored to see the world from a young age. I have uncles who have also served in World War II from 1941 to 1945. 

Stanley G. Cooper 1941

My father, Stanley Gibson Cooper, joined the U.S. Navy in the spring of 1941, after taking an entrance exam with a school buddy. His friend did not pass the test. Stan did and was ready to see the world. His mother tried to talk him out of it for the present and wait until after he finished high school at P.S. 33 of Queens, New York. His father, ended up signing permission papers for his entrance. 

After World War II, Stan later obtained his high school credit and decided to stay in the Navy as a full time career. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he met my mother, Lt.JG Martha Gabuzda, who served in the Academy Hospital. They were married soon after his graduation in 1949. Stan did see the world in his 26 years of service.

During WWII, my father served in the Pacific, and his brother, John Austin Cooper ‘Bud’, was called to enter the war and served in Europe with the U.S. Army. Their father, John Carrick Cooper ‘Jack’, came to the United States from Ireland in 1906. Jack entered during WWI, but because of a disability, served from home, in a different matter. He did the same during WWII. 

Bud, Jack and Stan Cooper 1945.

My mother, Martha, had three brothers. They all served in their unique ways.

George Gabuzda, born 5 Nov 1915, during the war worked for the Atlas Powder Co. as a chemist. Although, George, did not fight in battle during the war, he did attend Citizens Military Training Camp the summer of 1930 at Fort Howard in Maryland.

Edward Gabuzda, born 17 Apr 1918, enlisted 31 Mar 1944. Looking at his Army Enlistment Records, it states his occupation as “Skilled nurses.” He served in the Pacific, in Assam, India, 1945. 

Edward visits home.

Stephen J. Gabuzda, born 12 Jun 1920, enlisted14 Jan 1942. Looking at his Army Enlistment Records, it states his occupation as “Semiskilled meatcutters, except in slaughtering and packing houses.” His father, Stephen A. Gabuzda, was a butcher at home in Freeland, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. He served with the Army in Europe from 1942-1945. Stephen fought in the well-known Battle for the Remagen Bridge on 7 Mar 1945 as a radio man.

Stephen J. Gabuzda

I am fortunate to possess some letters that Stephen wrote to his family during this time. One to his sister, Ensign Martha, who joined the U.S. Navy 3 months earlier.

“21 Jan 1945
Somewhere in Belgium

Dear Martha,
  How are you and the Navy coming along? Just fine I hope. I can’t get much on this V-Mail, but anyway just enough to let you know I am still alive and thinking about you.
  I’ve only been over here a short time now, boy but do I miss everyone and everything. Especially, Renee and the baby. I guess I’ll be missing the sweetest days of Jackie’s baby life. What a  nice time they picked to send me overseas.
  I’ve seen four countries already, but I’ll still take the good old U.S.A. I’ve been in Scotland, England, France, and now Belgium. Right now I’m just waiting to be assigned to some unit. I’m pretty close to the fighting, but not in much danger.  Living conditions are pretty rough over here, especially when you’re not used to it like me. So far, it’s been miserable. Mostly the weather. Plenty of snow and cold. We were living in tents, but moved to buildings. I don’t know which is worse, sleeping on straw in cold tents, or sleeping on cement floors in heated buildings. That's about all the space, so I’ll close, hoping to hear from you soon. Love, your brother, Steve.”

As I research and discover other ancestors, I find distant family who also served to defend our freedoms in the great U. S. of A along with others around the world. They are all honored in my heart EVERY DAY. Let’s not forget them. Will you do the same for your loved ones by sharing their stories?