Three Brothers

As she played Amazing Grace on the flute under the United States flag in the small country church, I thought about the three brothers. They were raised south of Ft. Benning in the 1930s and 40s. They were the sons of a farmer, and they called their mother Juliette as was their tradition.

This was rural Georgia. Some former slaves still breathed the clean, humid air. Many sons and daughters of Confederates were only in their 60s. The boys didn’t notice the lack of running water or electricity. Ms. Juliette made sure they did not notice the lack of insulation on the cold winter nights either. Life was hard. Yet, listening to these men tell it, life was idyllic.

The three farm boys would not be able to continue in the agrarian tradition of the father and Stonewall Jackson the grandfather. Three years of drought and they had to find different paths. Their country saw their potential. Robert E. was first, and he committed to the air force. William V. chose the navy. John Stonie was the youngest and the army was the obvious choice.

It was not long before the two pilots and the naval aviator were part of the Southern warrior tradition. The Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, and Air Medals are testament to this as was their humility. One night somewhere over Vietnam, Robert heard William on the radio as William was heading from Hanoi back to the ship. William would have appreciated how Robert told it at his funeral.

As the sailor played taps on the bugle Robert saluted. He has buried Juliette and both his brothers. When William was stationed in DC, he made sure his mother got the recognition she deserved. The chairman of the joint chiefs presented her with a letter thanking her for producing sons who served the country so well for so long.

The lives of these Southerners are examples of service and understated patriotism. Their Confederate ancestors would be proud.


Career consultant turned substitute teacher and writer. I enjoy the outdoors and poker.

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