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Some Stories Never Get Told

May 25, 2020

He was his father’s only son. He never married. He was old when I was young. I’d known he was a veteran. His funeral was one of my earliest memories. I remember the bugler standing on a lonely hilltop in a very old cemetery in the town of Tekoa, Washington.

The town has less than 600 people in it. It’s a tiny farming town on the Washinton, Idaho border. It’s the place my people are from. My aunts and uncles is buried there. My grandparents are buried there. Their parents are buried there. And thier parents’ parents are buried there. Someday my cousins will likely be buried there.

I called him Uncle Earl, but he was actually my great-uncle. I didn’t really know him well. It’s hard when our ages were so different. I’m not even sure he liked kids. We lived in Tekoa off and on as I grew up, and we often visited my grandparents, and my great grandfather there.

In a town as small as Tekoa you pretty much saw everyone. So we saw Uncle Earl often. His house was next to my great grandfather’s as I remember. One time, as a young boy, I got lost coming home from school. It’s hard to imagine. The entire town was less than a square mile. I couldn’t find my way to grandparents’s house, where we were living. So, I walked to my great-grandfather’s house. That meant I walked by Uncle Earl’s house as well.

I learned today, what he did in the army. He fought in WWII. His rank was a Tec-5, or Technician fifth grade. Wikipedia says that a Tec 5 was a United States Army technician rank during World War II. Technicians possessed specialized skills that were rewarded with a higher pay grade, but had no command authority. The pay grade number corresponded with the technician’s rank.

I don’t know what he did in the war. No one really talked about it. I certainly never heard Uncle Earl talk about it. My uncle, Earl’s nephew told me a few stories before he also passed away.

Uncle Earl was wounded in the war. It caused some stomach issues for the rest of his life. I think he may have lived on a pension or disability payments.

Unfortunately, Uncle Earl passed away alone. He drank a lot later in life. My uncle says that he drank himself to death. As it was, he was dead for several days before he was found. It was a sad way to die for a war veteran, and a man with family all around him.

Today is Memorial Day. The day we remember those veterans who died either during war time or after. There are many deceased veterans in my family. My father, my father-in-law, Uncle Earl, of course. But, even further back, we have family that fought in the Civil War. And I have an ancestor Captain Abdail Bliss who fought at Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War.

Some stories are known. Some are unknown. Some stories can be discovered. Some are lost to history.

Uncle Earl was the last of the Blairs. He had four sisters. One of whom was my grandmother. Those of us with memories of Uncle Earl are growing older. Soon, his memory will be words on an old blog post. Or the short information found on his government issued tombstone on a lonely hillside graveyard outside of a tiny town in the Palouse country of Eastern Washington.

A lonly hillside where once stood a solitary bugler playing the final salute to a fallen WWII veteran.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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