As I sit here this Memorial Day weekend, I keep thinking back to how I used to spend the weekend with my family: Bar-B-Ques in the back yard, getting our pool ready for the summer season, just enjoying being outside with my family and of course, the annual trip to Lansing to ‘decorate’ the graves of my ancestors.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the true reason for Memorial Day was not to celebrate a day off and the start of summer, but a day to thank those service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while on active military duty.
My parents met during World War II – Mom was a WAVE, stationed in Washington D.C, at Naval Headquarters and Dad was drafted into the ARMY and spent his basic training outside of Washington D.C. and ended up being deployed to Saipan, where he managed the supply warehouse. But the story of how they met is for another day, this is to remember my Dad’s 1st cousin – John Vincent Wilkinson, son of Ernest Wilkinson and Kathleen Vincent.
John V. Wilkinson was the oldest son of my Great-Aunt Kathleen (“Kitty”) and her husband Ernest Wilkinson, Sr. Both he and his younger brother, Ernest, Jr. served in the Army. John enlisted on 10 Dec 1944. At his death, he was a 2nd Lieutenant, stationed in Korea with the occupying force. The following newspaper article briefly describes how Lieut. Wilkinson died. It was published in the Lansing State Journal on 18 Dec 1945, pg. 4.
Information regarding the circumstances attending the death of Second Lieut. John V. Wilkinson, 31, husband of Mrs. Margaret King Wilkinson, who died in Korea, November 30, was received here Monday.
Lieut. Robert Fiebig, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fiebig, also stationed in Korea, has written his parents that Lieutenant Wilkinson was killed in an accidental explosion which also killed several other officers, a number of enlisted men and several Koreans. Fiebig wrote that Lieutenant Wilkinson was buried on Korea December 2 following military funeral services.
Lieutenant Wilkinson’s widow and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Wilkinson, Sr, were informed by the war department late last week that he had been killed in an explosion. They first received word of his death December 10 in a war department telegram but no details were given as to the cause of death.
Besides the widow and parents, Lieutenant Wilkinson is survived by three children, two brothers, Ernest, Jr., recently discharged from service and Stanley, and a grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Vincent, all of Lansing.
In January, 1949, Second Lieut. John V. Wilkinson’s body returned to the city where he was born, Lansing, where he was buried with full military honors, in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. Eventually, his parents, his wife and both his brothers and their wives were buried in the same cemetery.
I will still think of my parents and my Aunts and Uncles, who served in WWII, along with all my ancestors who have served in various wars and conflicts, but my main thoughts this holiday weekend will be with my Cousin John, the one who made the ultimate sacrifice, and who we honor on Memorial Day.