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A Small Memorial

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Published 7 years ago
The only reason I am writing this is because I couldn't seem to find anything on the pages of Storiesspace concerning Memorial Day. Perhaps that is because it is just today, May 26th, and any remembrances have not yet been verified by our hardworking moderators. In any case, let me at least ramble on a bit about my own family and the services we have performed in the various military forces our country has.

I won't go back to the Revolutionary War, even though there are some Nighs listed in various muster roles I have seen. And I know that during the Civil War there were around thirty-two Nighs listed as having served. Interestingly, thirty-one were Northerners and only one was a Southerner. It gives you a sense of our political and cultural proclivities. Even so, my father's family members were localized in the Arkansas area during the 20th century.

During World War Two my uncle, Joe Nigh, my father's brother, served on board a naval vessel that was attacked by Japanese Kamikaze planes. He is buried in a national cemetery in Oklahoma, where his children, members of the Cherokee Tribe, still live. My father, Bill Nigh, served the last year of the war on board a ship where he saw no fighting at all. He is now buried in Fort Smith National Cemetery. His second wife, Hilda, is buried on top of him, according to the custom.

Vietnam saw my uncle, Bob Paillet, my mother's brother, serving aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam, while my brother, Boyd Nigh, also served on an aircraft carrier in the same area, but not at the same time. I don't believe either saw any real combat. At least none they mentioned. My brother, David Nigh, volunteered for the draft, which meant he had only to serve two years in the Army. He served a year in Vietnam, during the Cambodian invasion, garnering a Bronze Star and a Silver Star in the process. After discharge he joined the Navy and served mainly on diesel submarines for the next twenty years, retiring to the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and becoming something of a recluse, even though he completed twenty more years in the Postal service.

Most recently, my nephew, Scot Smith, served on an aircraft carrier in the Navy and completed a twenty year career. He was also sent to Afghanistan as military prison guard, even though he had not trained for that. He was lucky enough to find his second wife there, where she was also serving as a naval military guard. They both retired and are healthy in Virginia. My great-nephew, Austin Smith, is currently serving aboard a ship out of San Diego. He tried for a long time to enter service but was frustrated because they were cutting back on personnel. He finally achieved his goal.

Finally, my own little contribution I have spoken of before. But to reiterate, I joined the Navy in 1969 and was sent to boot camp in San Diego, then to linguistics training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, to learn Spanish. Then to San Angelo, Texas, to learn radio/telephone techniques. With this training I was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a year and then to the Panama Canal Zone for eighteen months. I monitored Spanish language radio communications. I completed four years, wasn't eligible to continue service because I was too small, and got on with my life.

When I was forty-nine, I decided to join the Kansas Army National Guard. My weight was no longer a factor at that age. I could be as small as I was and still serve. For nine years I trained in the Field Artillery, first as a Field Artillery Meteorologist, sending up weather balloons to gather data that could affect the trajectories of howitzer projectiles. Then I switched my MOS to Fire Control, which involved telling the guns where to fire. I never left the country while in the Guard, and at fifty-eight years of age I left service.

That, rather concisely, is the service my family has performed for our country. We are rather proud of it. We certainly don't brag about it, because others have given much more in their service then we were ever called upon to give. They gave their bodies, their minds, and their lives. They gave the full measure. It is those we honor today, this Memorial Day, May 26th, 2014.

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