The Ultimate Sacrifice for War

As a teen, I heard a story of a family’s sacrifice and loss during the Civil War. This story is more of a family legend and has haunted me since. According to the storyteller, the family lived in Northwest Winn Parish along the Medenhause Creek. Also, it was said this family was viewed by neighbors as being much better off than most. The father of the family was said to have been a veterinarian.

After the war started, the family sent all of their sons (7 in number) to fight in that war. It seems possible one or more of their sons may have also been husbands and fathers. Furthermore, the family was said to have made a property donation of all male slaves to support the war effort. At that time in Louisiana, slaves were legal property. After bidding farewell to their seven sons and their male slaves they would never see them again.

After the war ended, the son’s mother became mournful and grievous hoping for some sense of closure. Closure would never come. Even in old age and failing health she refused to move out of the house her sons were believed to have been born in. Her refusal to relocate deeply concerned friends and family. They encouraged her to seek a trusted caretaker.

This time, this family’s story became intertwined with that of my own. The son’s mother (now a widow and alone) sold my great-grandfather 40 acres downstream of the Medenhause creek to have him within hollering distance. The entire family of the sons was familiar with my great-grandfather as in his youth he was their wagon driver. He and his young family became caretakers of the son’s mother until her death. The family of the seven sons was forever grateful to my great-grandfather for providing care for their mother in her time of need.

The above story/family legend illustrates and brings needed attention to a type of war casualty called missing in action (MIA). This Department of Defense (DOD) classification is, without doubt, the most agonizing for surviving families. Until DOD can provide definitive information, families are left in a perpetual state of suspense. On Monday, May 30, we honor MIAs, Killed-in-action (KIAs), and the Unknowns.

As with all war casualties, we remember them as making the ultimate sacrifice. Some are remembered as sacrificing their lives so that others might live. Others are remembered as going above and beyond the call of duty. It is my humble belief that all honorees on Memorial Day are what the Marines refer to as “a cut above average.”


Willie M. Calhoun,MSG,USAR,RET