Saturday, 29 September 2018, I attended the unveiling of a new monument in the Netherlands honoring the crew of the Mission Belle B-17 bomber. I wrote two articles about the day's events, which you can read.
In this article I would like to share more of the healing and closure side of the day's events.
We often hear of people walking in their soldier's footsteps. That is a phrase I have used a lot since I walked in my cousin James Privoznik's footsteps in 2015. Colonel Fischer of the U.S. Air Force, who spoke at the commemoration of the Mission Belle, thanked the families for following the flight path of their family member. I love that phrase.
I attended the unveiling of the Mission Belle monument for several reasons.
We all have a story inside of us. Usually more than one.
As I write this I am sitting in an Amsterdam hospital while my husband receives treatment. We will be here all day and several more days this week. To pass my time while he sleeps I am writing in my journal with my beloved fountain pens.
I am trying to Find the Answers to my life.
Have you stopped to consider how often we try to Find the Answers to our ancestor’s lives, yet we do not often stop to find them for our own? You could say I’ve been seeking them my entire life. The journey really became more challenging and emotional several years ago when I fully embraced the questions in my life and purposefully and consciously started to Find the Answers.
That journey led me to Europe and more specifically, the Netherlands. Little did I know the life I would create here, with all its joys and struggles, would help me Find the Answers to so many pieces of my life and the past.
I do a lot of journaling and have...
In June 2018 I spent some time in Naarden-Vesting, Netherlands. I was in a major transition in life and created this video on the books I was reading at the time.
As I prepare for another journey and am in the beginning of another major transition, the books, both fiction and non-fiction are showing up to help me navigate my new life.
What are you reading that is helping you change your universe? Our readers would love to know. Please post in the comments.
© 2018 Jennifer Holik
Last fall I published this post on my WWII Research and Writing Center website. I felt it was time to start talking about what the government did not pay for after the war. To bring out of the darkness the grief felt by families.
This article stirred a bit of controversy with people who believe our ABMC cemeteries are the only place a WWII soldier should be buried. Even one man who works at an ABMC cemetery was very angry in his comments telling me it was the highest place of honor for anyone to be buried and that they treat families very well.
That's true for some - TODAY. My family would disagree it is the highest place of honor for war dead because we have one soldier buried in ABMC Luxembourg but we also have several who were repatriated and are buried in Chicago. I know many other families who chose to repatriate their family members believe where they are now buried is the highest place of honor.
We have to keep in mind that there are very few people alive today that had to...
I spent the weekend in Son, Netherlands for the 74th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden, specifically for the 101st Airborne commemorations and living history. This was my second time experiencing this event.
This year I spent a lot of time talking to Dutch people about the choices their families made during WWII. In some cases, the family members fought in the resistance, were taken as forced laborers to Germany, or fought to survive the hunger winter of 1945.
In other cases, family members chose to join the German ranks and were sent to the Eastern Front. There has been a stigma around those who chose to fight for the Germans, that affects families even today. Even when those who fought are long dead.
My questions to you are....
Should we be bringing these family secrets and stories out of the darkness and into the light?
How much will that change the stigma attached to this part of history?
Can we stand back and observe the choices made and not judge?
Can we acknowledge what...
I’ve spent more than 20 years in the fields of genealogy/family history and military history with a focus the last decade on World War I and World War II. I taught myself a lot where genealogy was concerned, and attended classes and conferences. I participated in the community’s professional genealogy education. Throughout everything I studied or read, the focus was on names, dates, places, sometimes historical context, but never on exploring the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual side of family.
When I began researching in-depth both world wars, which led me to teach and write books on how to research any branch, there was no one to teach me what to do. No one in the country had written educational materials. Yes there were two very outdated books on barely researching Army service, but beyond that nothing existed. The few people who were starting to lecture on this were not going beyond the basics of “all the records burned and here are some online...
In Germany the summer of 2018, I spent a day traveling with Doug Mitchell, who showed Johan and I the West Wall, Dragon's Teeth, bunkers, and memorials. We absorbed a lot of history that day.
We visited many WWII sites, some in which I could still feel the trauma, hear the whispers, feel the pain. And others, like the one in this video, where there was a sense of peace.
That peace was a bit in conflict with my head which knew a battle had raged in those woods and blood soaked the land. Sometimes standing in these sacred spaces is difficult for us to reconcile energy and mind.
Where have you stood in a military family member's footsteps that caused this reaction in you? How did you reconcile the energy and knowledge?
© 2018 Jennifer Holik
For more than a decade I have been researching all branches of the military in WWII. In 2015 I finally went to Europe to walk in the footsteps of my cousin James Privoznik, fly his final burial flag over the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Luxembourg Cemetery where he sleeps, and then walk in the woods here he was killed.
Earlier on that trip I visited my first ABMC cemetery at Normandy. Having extensively researched and read hundreds of Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF)s and the work of the Graves Registration Service, I thought I was prepared to stand in that sacred space.
All the research in the world, all the reading of books in the world, is not the same as standing where your family member fought, was wounded, or died. Nothing can compare or completely prepare you for that moment.
Have you traveled in Europe after doing the military research for your family? It isn't enough to look at your father's discharge paper and say, 'Oh he was in that unit.' Usually...
I visited the Livingston County War Museum for a second time on 31 August 2018. That day I arrived to a room full of veterans ready to share their stories.
Art Leach, a WWII Navy Fighter Pilot volunteered to chat first. He is quite a character and told me a lot of stories and provided information many of us don't know. Enjoy his interview. I certainly enjoyed chatting with him.
Would you like to see more interviews? Visit our YouTube channel.
© 2018 Jennifer Holik
I’ve been having many conversations with people about FAMILY. CHOICE. GRATITUDE. JUDGMENT. NEGATIVITY. CHANGE. WAR. LIFE. DEATH.
Whenever I have posed some questions, usually in a short video, about family choice and what would it take to stop judging it all, the response I get on the posts and through messages is often filled with negativity. As if there is no possibility to see anything positive in the “bad” or “wrong” or “terrible” choices our family members made. Yet, what if there is something in there to be grateful for?
Add to this the tangled web of someone saying, “Well my grandpa did THIS and I know how it traumatized THAT person and THAT person so why should I not judge?”
First, we do not know the 100 choices and experiences that led up to grandpa making a choice that did some damage or whatever it caused. Second, we do not know the 100 choices, experiences, baggage, etc. carried by the people his choice hurt. We were...