Lest We Forget

Posted on May 26, 2021 by shackelford under Uncategorized

Every year about this time, I tend to turn my blogging attention toward the holidays.  Goodness knows, we have enough of them to acknowledge in May and June, specifically Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, with Memorial Day sandwiched almost smack in the middle.

Last year I made up my mind that for Memorial Day I would focus on a few heroic souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and I think it’s a decision that’s going to become a tradition.  I’m afraid too many of us have forgotten the real reason this day was set aside, a bout of amnesia enabled by Congress’s June 28, 1968 decision to use it as the finale of a three day weekend (which became effective in 1971), thereby watering down the meaning of what should be a very somber day.  For those of you looking for a light-hearted something-or-other, or who prefer not to think about wartime death, I would kindly suggest you move on without reading further.  But for those of you who acknowledge the sometimes harsh realities of life, I’d like to tell you just a little about three young men who lost their lives in service to our country.


Within the sacred grounds of Savannah Cemetery in my hometown of Savannah, Tennessee, there rests the mortal remains of James Wesley Ingle, a private in Company K of the 343rd Infantry.  He came into this world just a few days after Christmas in 1886, born to Thomas J. and Mary Belle “Minnie” Ingle.  According to his family records, James was a twin, sharing his birthdate with his brother, William Henry.  When he completed his draft card on June 5, 1917, he was 30 years old, living at home and working on the family farm in Adamsville. A little over a year later, he received his orders, reporting for duty at Camp Gordon on July 25th and shipping out for Europe on September 11th.  Twelve days later, he died in a military hospital in France and was interred in Magdalen Hill Cemetery in Hampshire, England.  Neither of his parents would live to see his body returned home, his mother having died in 1902 and his father following her—and his son—in 1919.  Almost 18 months after his death, on April 21, 1920, James Wesley Ingle’s body was exhumed, the beginning of his journey back to Tennessee and to his final resting place in the city cemetery of Savannah where his mother and father were waiting.  Engraved upon his monument are his name, his dates of birth and death as well as his rank and the company with which he served . . . and the simple words “He died in France”.




Freddie K. Martin came to Savannah, Tennessee compliments of Brown Shoe Company, a manufacturing concern (that made shoes . . . of course) for which his father worked.  He graduated from Central High School as a member of the Class of 1963 and, according to a classmate of his, moved to Memphis not long afterwards.  By their account, he was in Memphis when he was drafted.  By the military’s account, he was in Hollywood, California.  Wherever Freddie might have been residing, he entered the Army and began his first . . . and only . . . tour of duty in Vietnam on July 2, 1968.  A little over a month later he died at the age of 22, a casualty of combat.  The date was August 20th—or possibly the 19th, again depending upon your source.  The place was the Hậu Nghĩa province of South Vietnam . . . or perhaps the Hậu Giang province. The sites documenting his military service seem to have trouble agreeing on so many of the details.  What we do know is that Freddie’s body was recovered and returned to his family, who chose to bury him in East View Cemetery in Union City, Tennessee. His father died two months later and was buried beside his son.  Freddie had attained the rank of sergeant, a position noted on the bronze veteran’s plaque that his father requested . . . but did not live to see.




John Emerson Milender was planning a career in the military, enlisting in 1948 at the ripe old age of 16 ½, give or take a day or two.  On June 22, 1951, he married Louise Webb and over the next 15 years their family grew to include four wonderful children.  During his career, John spent time in Germany and a year in Okinawa, but exactly 189 days after his last tour of duty began—at the age of 34—Sgt. Milender died in combat in the Quang Tri province of South Vietnam. Had he lived until July, he would have begun his 18th year in the service. Instead, his wife Louise became his widow and a single mother of four.  John’s body was recovered and sent home for burial in Pisgah Cemetery, arriving in Memphis at 10:38 AM on February 9, 1966, escorted by Sergeant First Class Plyler.  A service was held at the Freewill Baptist Church the following Friday and four days later Louise signed the application for his veteran’s marker; it showed his date of discharge as January 28, 1966, the date of his death.




By intent I have not shared the gory details of these deaths, not because I don’t know but because my point isn’t how horrifically they died.  It’s that they had to die at all.  And that, my friends, is why we observe Memorial Day.  Not celebrate.  Observe.  And remember.



About the author:  Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926.  She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there.  Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.

2 thoughts on “Lest We Forget

  1. Rose Harmon says:

    Thank you for your comments. We all fail to see the sacrifices these heroes made as well as their families. We observe this time to remember these and to Thank all for their service to our great country in order to insure the freedoms we have today. Thank you.

  2. Jean Overton says:

    this is what every young person should know please continue with this its important God bless You the widow of a Viet nam veteran.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.