A Band of Brothers...

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, 
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free, 
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, 
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. " 

God Bless America, 
Land that I love. 
Stand beside her, and guide her 
Thru the night with a light from above. 
From the mountains, to the prairies, 
To the oceans, white with foam 
God bless America, My home sweet home.

On this Veteran's Day, I want to honor a special band of five brothers who served in WWII. You see, this band of brothers is special to me because it includes my own dad and his four brothers...the Stenberg boys.  If you've been following along with my blog, you know that I love to read stories about WWII...especially true stories, like The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken. Though both my mom and dad served in WWII, they rarely spoke of their experiences, and as I've gotten older, I've so wished I had taken the time and interest to talk to them about the war years. 

As a mother of two sons, I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for my grandmother and grandfather, waiting, waiting, for letters, for news of their five boys...wondering where they were and if they were alive.  Perhaps unbeknownst to them, their five sons ended up in various arenas of warfare all over the world...and several endured and saw and fought horrific battles. Fortunately, my dad did "interview" his brothers about some of their war experiences for a book he was writing so I do have a little information. 

Harold, the oldest brother, joined the Navy and spent several years as a gunner, enduring two brutal years in the North Sea, traveling between Liverpool, England and Mummansk, Russia. Many ships were lost to German U-Boats, but Uncle Harold survived.

Dad, the next in line, joined the Coast Guard initially, and ended up serving as an Able Bodied Seaman in the Merchant Marine, traveling the Pacific and Atlantic, supplying the fuel and supplies to the tankers. His ship was dodging Japanese submarine torpedoes and almost went down after hitting a submersed reef, but they were saved by Australian tug boats. 

Vernon, entered the Navy as an officer, and served in Guam, Pearl Harbor, and Manus in the New Hebrides Islands. He later was called up again during the Korean War, being stationed in Japan.

Osborn, joined the Army, and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He saw and experienced some of the toughest battles as a paratrooper and soldier, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. He fought in the ground warfare in Holland, and Bastogne, Belgium, where the Germans finally surrendered. He was also involved in the liberation of those in the Dachau concentration camp. At the end of the war, he was awarded The Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Ozzie attended the 50th Anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, where he and his fellow veterans were warmly welcomed and honored by the people of France. Fittingly, Uncle Ozzie died this past June 6th at the age of 93, on the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, a true American hero.

Ralph, the youngest brother,  joined the Navy and served as a bombardier and gunner on PBM Seaplanes in the Atlantic. Their role was to chase enemy submarines that were attacking American ships. He too survived, and returned safely home to Seattle, where the family had settled. 

I am so thankful for the dedication and service of this fine band of brothers, who "more than self their country loved" (America, the Beautiful).  Only Ralph is still with us of the brothers, as well as one of his sister's, Lydia. These men, like so many others, valiantly served their country, survived, yet rarely spoke of their war experiences. I truly do wish I knew more about their stories...probably worthy of a bestselling book or movie. On this Veteran's Day, I wish to honor and salute them. May God continue to bless the memory of this fine band of brothers.

The Olaf Stenberg family after the war, circa 1948, after Grandpa had passed away. Top Row: Osborn and Odin Kenneth, Middle Row: Harold, Ralph, and Vernon, Bottom Row: Lydia, Synnove, Signe, and Elsie Stenberg.  

The Olaf Stenberg family after the war, circa 1948, after Grandpa had passed away. Top Row: Osborn and Odin Kenneth, Middle Row: Harold, Ralph, and Vernon, Bottom Row: Lydia, Synnove, Signe, and Elsie Stenberg.

 

 ( My mother also served as an army nurse in the Philippines and Okinawa, but that is a story for another time.)

How about you? Do you have a family member or special veteran that you admire and honor this Veteran's Day? I would love to hear who they are!