Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day 2015: Remembering Theodore W. Clarke and Phelps W. Long, Jr. Family members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Dear Grandparents,
These days Memorial Day is not just a day but a three day weekend and the start of the summer season. Congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in the 1970s. I like BBQs, pool parties and picnics as much as the next person, but I also do not want to loose sight of what Memorial Day was meant to honor.

Postcard of first official Memorial Day held at Arlington National Cemetery 1868
Image from the Library of Congress Chronicling America Collection.

The tradition of service runs deep in our family. My daughter, niece, husband, brother, father, uncles and grandfathers all served. These lines can be traced back to the Revolutionary War and beyond to the French and Indian War, King Phillip's War etc. Two of these family members made the ultimate sacrifice; Theodore William Clarke and Phelps Wilson Long, Junior.

Fifer Theodore Clarke of the First Nebraska Infantry, Company C
Image is reverse of tintype in author's possession.
Theodore enlisted in the First Nebraska Infantry June 6, 1862. His letters to his mother and sister explain that he felt strongly about two things, preserving the Union and ending slavery. He lived through two of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War; Fort Donelson and Shiloh, only to die, probably of pneumonia, January 7th, 1863. Theodore's younger sister, Mary Elizabeth (Clarke) Newton, is my 2nd great grandmother.

PFC Phelps Wilson Long, Junior, US Marine Corps
Image from collection shared with author by his sister, Shirley Long Collins.
Phelps had graduated from High School in Tallahassee Class of 1941 and enrolled at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and seemed destined for a normal college experience. All of that ended December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Phelps enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and fought at Guadalcanal and then Bougainville with the Third Marine Division. He was killed in action on Bougainville, Solomon Islands, December 16, 1943. He is the son of my paternal Grandmother's sister Martha Marinda (Allen) Long.

Both of these family members had their lives ended far too soon. They did not get to experience the joys of marriage, parenthood and growing older. They left behind families who were devastated by their loss. Tomorrow on Memorial Day, let us remember them and their sacrifices. They should not be forgotten.