Sunday, May 15, 2016

Teachable Moment: Memorial Day and Regular Kids Who Were Heroes

This crew was delivering supplies to French civilians during the D Day invasion and was shot down. My dad's cousin, Blake Treece, T/Sgt. Radioman, is in the second row, fifth (l to r.)
My dad was from Marshall, Arkansas. He was 21 years old when Pearl Harbor happened. His older brother, Robert, had already volunteered to fly with the English in the Battle of Britain. As boys, they had built an airplane in the backyard, and dad had participated in a local aeronautical club as an
Robert, Grandma, Alphia, Larry, Maxine. Just after Pearl Harbor Day.
instructor. Both brothers were going to a teacher's college (Arkansas State Teacher's College), until Robert volunteered to fly with the British.
After Pearl Harbor Day,  my dad (Larry) joined the Navy, and my aunt Maxine joined the Army. Both my dad and Uncle Robert flew in the Pacific. My dad was a quick study, after flying Corsairs, became an instructor pilot. Robert became one of the first pilots to fly a B29 as part of the Billy Mitchell Group, sort of a test pilot while fighting the war.

The Lady Hamilton, B 29, Billy Mitchell Group.
Robert was captain of Lady Hamilton B 29, on a bombing mission that flew from India, over the Himalayas (called 'Flying the Hump') and China to Japan when the plane developed engine trouble, and the second target was chosen. Japanese Zeroes pursued. Robert, as captain, ordered most of the crew to parachute out (they were aided by Chinese and survived.) He and two other crew completed the mission but were shot down by the Zeroes, losing their lives in 1944.

College Memorial (OCA) with the names Robert Mills and Blake Treece.


My grandma's nephew and my dad's first cousin, Blake Treece, was a radio operator for a B-17 in the European theatre. Blake left the same college as his cousins to enlist. His plane was shot down in 1944 over France. The remains of the crew were buried by a French farmer, and recovered in 2006 due to  historical excavations of the Caen area. Blake and his crew members were then buried in 2006 in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Another of my grandmother's nephews and my dad's first cousin from Searcy, Arkansas, Claude A. McBride, served in the Army in the Philippines, being killed in action.

Regular kids from a most regular, simple town in America, Marshall, Arkansas. Where does the courage and brilliance come from? On this Memorial Day, by my observation as a teacher, the USA is filled with such courage and brilliance in all our boys and girls. Devotion, teamwork, collaboration that leads to heroic deeds develops in the minds, spirits, and souls of kids allowed to believe in their own capacity for excellence and their intrinsic value as citizens. Kids from all demographics and ethnicities, which is, of course, what America is made of.

I feel compassion for my little grandma in the photo, knowing she would lose her Robert. And her brother and sister would lose their Claude and not know ever what happened to Blake. (They passed away before his remains were found.)

We can value their choice to serve our country and expect the same excellence and commitment to all varieties of service to continue because all regular kids can be heroes. And they're sitting in your classrooms.

Blake's sister communicated with me after the original post in 2015, and told me about my dad's family in Arkansas. I'm very amazed and validated to have access to such information. Amazing world nowadays.

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