Memorial Day: Remember Our Military Family With Photos

Military Photo Memorial Day

The author’s grandfather and grandmother on their wedding day, late 1930s, Missouri

By Vanessa Mallory Kotz


I come from a military family, all Air Force, four generations worth. My grandfather, William Mallory, made a lifetime career of it. I don’t remember him talking about his rank or daily tasks, but I’ll never forget the stories he told of taking over as pilot on some missions because his brothers in arms had partied a little too hard the night before. It was their little secret. His buddies knew they could always rely on Bill to complete the mission and bring them home safe. He served during WWII in Paris. As a child, I was told his job was to help free the Jews and all people oppressed by Hitler, a very bad man. Only as an adult do I understand what that meant, and I do so with pride.



Both his sons served during the Vietnam War, enlisting as soon as they were old enough. My uncle was older and sent to the front lines where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. During a raid at the air field a Vietnamese man rushed him, and my uncle was forced to shoot to save his own life. When he looked at the lifeless body of his would-be-assassin, he realized it was his barber from the village. A man he was friendly with and fond of. It was his only kill. Well into his 70s, my uncle still dreams about this man. He’s sure that the Vietnamese solider didn’t recognize him in the heat of battle. So the story goes.

Military Photos Memorial Day

The author’s father, Feb. 1969, after basic training in his parents’ house, Missouri


My dad was a pacifist who opposed the war. But his father had instilled in his sons the importance of duty to country and encouraged them to join the military. In 1968, Dad enlisted at the tender age of 18. His youth in this photo touches and terrifies me. He was not sent to the jungle but to Europe. Stationed in England, he was a health inspector who examined aircraft returning from  combat. He checked for pests (earning the nickname Ratso) and  cleaned the Huey helicopters, and was exposed to Agent Orange in the process. He also had the grim task of identifying the bodies of fallen soldiers. He never told me that part. It’s a story passed down, like the others.


Every Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Fourth of July my dad carefully hung a flag from the eaves near our front door to signal his support of the people serving in the military, even if he disagreed with their assigned missions. While my family was able to welcome William, Steve and Rick Mallory home from these wars, so many families have not. The news rarely reports on the losses of these men and women today, despite the fact we have been at war in two countries for 16 years. Cameras are not permitted when their coffins are delivered home and it’s not a fun topic for “click bait” as we scroll through our phones.


Preserving the photos of our soldiers in military uniform—these loved ones who keep us all safe—documents the fact that they exist. They are doing voluntarily what so many won’t and don’t want to know about as their attention is distracted by tweets and reality shows and porn star payoffs.


Today at least, let us remember and thank the fallen, those who were lucky enough to come home, and those serving actively now.


We thank you for your service.