Heroes among us

... recognizing those who have served their country, past and present.

by Debb Collar

Staff Sergeant Kendall A. Collar, his uniform and medals earned from WWII

They are decorated. They are strong. They are our fathers, mothers, brothers sisters, grandparents and ancestors from years gone by. They are our future. They are Veterans.

How many of us, as children, took the time to fully understand their experiences, learn their history, or ask questions about their time serving their country.                                                

WWII dogtag of Kendall A. Collar
Many a soldier has trekked through my family tree from those dating back to the Revolutionary War to my own father and uncle. Both were soldiers in World War II. My father a Staff Sergeant, my uncle a Warrant Officer with The Signal Corps. The books, the photos, the uniforms, etc... have always been at my disposal, yet little led me to study details about the military lives of these two men. The pair were, for the most part, fairly silent about their service and actions they took for their country,which earned both men medals. It is through a later interest in genealogy that I learned a little more about my father and uncle. Enough to encourage me, at one time, to write a college paper and later to take anotherlook into having both men remembered at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.


Our own Melrose Mirror staff has 2 Veterans - one from the Korean War, another, a Marine. Conference table discussion recently turned from what would be the theme of the next Melrose Mirror to broken off discussions among others on various subjects. As I listened to the two men, it was surprising to me how easily both now spoke about their time in military service. My interest in learning more about my father's and uncle's time served once again was peaked and led me to a more recent search of books on WWII and another look at a recent photographic acquisition, left to me by a family member. Reading through this material added the depth to discoveries as to how and where both men earned their medals. Dog eared, yellowed pages detailed the stories of my family's Veterans.

Starting with my father, Kendall, the boxes filled with medals were always around, his uniform hung in our closet and we had an ammunition box when I was young. Occasionally, references would be made to those war years, usually in the company of friends or relatives who also had some connection to a time in their lives when they either enlisted on their own in a branch of the military or were called to duty due to the draft.

Medals received by my father were: a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, American Defense Medal, Combat Infantryman and Good Conduct Medal. It was evident that my father had been wounded, yet the story I had always heard as a child was that he been "shot during the war.". Later in life, I was to learn that this Staff Sergeant from Company A, 19th Infantry Battalion received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star when, according to his official military records, he "acted on his own initiative when his unit was cut off, and explored a large area behind enemy lines and finally located an escape route." The records continue with the wording, "without regard for his own safety, he performed his set appointed task under dense enemy shellfire.Sergeant Collar's unhesitant response, to the distress ,of his comrades, showed courage and devotion to duty."

He had been wounded at the age of 25, "near Neuf, France. "

My mother's brother, Philip Fleming, known to me as "Uncle Vin," also had a visible wound on his forehead. Again, only recently did I learn the extent of his injuries and that he, too, received medals for his courage. He belonged to the 100th Infantry Division Signal Corps and earned Two purple Hearts, Oak Leaf Clusters, Two Bronze Service Stars, Rhineland and Central Europe, A Good Conduct Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, European African Middle Eastern Medal and WWII Victory Medal.

Staff Sergeant Philip V. Fleming receives medals for action seen in WWII.

Activity my uncle saw during the war also earned him a commemoration at the world War II Memorial in Washington D.C. Military records state that the medals he earned were for having "served with the 100th Infantry Division Battle of Alsace, Lorraine, France. He too, was wounded in action, receiving a "shell wound in the right forearm, right leg and forehead."

In his civilian life, his occupation was with the Department of Agriculture following a brief stint in radio at WBZ, as a Public Relations man before his wartime duties.

While serving in the military, his occupation was listed as "Radio Operator High Speed." He entered the Armed Forces at the age of 26.

Both my father and uncle passed away many years ago. Their stories now live on through paper records and a tribute at the WWII Memorial.

There are many more men and women within my family, and other families, who also deserve recognition for having served their country, no matter which branch of military service. Too many to mention by name or continued stories but also deserving of being honored and remembered each Veteran's Day.

November 4, 2016

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