It is a family tradition in my southeast Virginia hometown to place flowers and mementos on the graves of loved ones on each holiday. When visiting, my aunt would keep me in the family loop by sharing whose grave she flowered–usually my father, William C Stancil, Sr., or my grandmother, Nancy Wilson, her mother-in-law.
If my father had been interred at a veterans cemetery his grave would be dutifully remembered with a small flag, like the row upon row of others who earned this resting place because they served.
At my now-annual solstice party for friends, a group of 5 male friends, partners to my own friends of the heart, sat together to share their Vietnam era war experiences. It was a “guy love” afternoon, enjoying each other’s company, cold beer, and a varied menu of grilled seafood and custom desserts crafted by my daughter and me. I frankly had no idea that two longtime friends had served. As young men during the era, I am afraid they learned to hide their war experience from an anti-war society, including war era protestors like me. My home front experience of Vietnam was a cousin and his entire community cohort, drafted only to return in coffins, or as shells of the optimistic young men they had once been.
A group of veteran artists at Combat Paper at the New Jersey Printmaking Center helped me to remember and honor my father and his service. At rare sessions for family members and friends, they examined his medals to decipher my fathers service during World War II and the Korean conflict, helped me turn one of dad’s old uniforms into paper, and guided me to create a silkscreen print from his 1943 Navy training class. Together we realized that my dad was only 17 years old when he proudly stood with his class.
As we celebrate our nation’s birthday this July 4, 2017, I remember the wars fought by young men and women. We don’t always acknowledge you, but your noble contributions have made my life and this country blessed.
A print of William C Stancil, Class of 1943.