The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 30, 2012

Save those Christmas letters


Christmas greetings from family members often contain details of achievements (promotion, trip, birth, etc.), as well as discouraging events (job loss, death, etc.). What better way to share such information with future generations than to preserve these holiday letters? Perhaps they could be kept in a notebook along with any photographs that accompanied them. Such memories of today will be appreciated in years to come.

Heroes of Old Hickory

A Christmas message from a dear friend, a fun-loving octogenarian, suggested I view a film that had been created when he attended the 60th anniversary reunion of his Army buddies in Europe in 2009. His unit, the 30th Infantry Division, was called “Old Hickory” after Andrew Jackson, illustrious soldier and seventh president of the U.S. The stories told in that film are most memorable.

At that reunion the veterans visited the towns and villages in Belgium and the Netherlands that they had liberated during WWII, and the warm reception of the local citizens was impressive, to say the least. Our friend was heard to say, “Wow — look at the people.”

The film, “Heroes of Old Hickory,” tells of some of the battles this unit was engaged in. “They never lost a battle,” and many of their buddies are buried in cemeteries in Europe. According to this film, every veteran’s grave has been adopted by a local family so that those brave men are never forgotten.

The story is unfinished. After the war, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower “asked his staff to evaluate the numerous divisions that participated in the war. The 30th Infantry Division was selected No. 1 and recommended for the Presidential Unit Citation.” That award has never been given. Visit to learn of this unit’s little-known story.

No doubt there are other WWII veterans living today whose military accounts have never been recorded. It is up to us, the current generation, to honor all veterans by recording their stories.

Similarly, everyone’s life has stories. Whether they are told on film, or in letters, or in recorded interviews, they need to be remembered for future descendants to enjoy and appreciate.


Q-4282: Wish to exchange information with anyone working on family of George W. SNYDER (ca 1846-1924). He served in 11th IN Cavalry during Civil War; was living in Thorntown, Boone Co, IN with brother, Charles H., when he married Mary MIKESELL in 1868. Their 6 children: Nora FANCHER, Carrie M. LAIRD, Dorothy PEMBERTON, Charles, Arthur, Raleigh/Rolla. George & Mary buried Springhill Cemetery.

— John Laird, 1214 King St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060; e-mail

Queries, as well as a general exchange of genealogical material that readers would like to share, will be printed in the column for free. Contact Joan Griffis by e-mailing