Today is Veterans Day and along with Memorial Day, one of the most important days for Americans to remember each year. If it were not for America’s veterans, who stepped up and served their country when needed, we would not have the freedoms we have today. I am proud to have served this great country and I am even prouder that I come from a long line of veterans, both American and British, who have fought on both sides of the pond.
My seventh great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gard and his sons, including my sixth great-grandfather, Alexander Guard and his cousins fought for a young America during the Revolutionary War. My great-great-great-great uncle, William L. Guard was a Captain in the Mexican-American War. My great-great uncle Henry George Louis Panchaud or Harry as he was called, was a well-known and decorated colonel in the Boer War in South Africa.
During WWI, my great-great-uncle, Philip Archibald Tatem, was 24 years old when he left his home in Bermuda with the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps and joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in France. He was killed on Sept. 25, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme after heavy fighting. His body was never identified, but he is honored on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Somme, France. His younger brother, Graham Tatem, also served in WWI and fortunately, did make it back to Bermuda. My paternal great-grandfather, Louis Benoni Panchaud, also served during WWI as a part of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, as well as his older brother, Albert Louis Panchaud, who served as a chaplain in the British Army.
My maternal grandfather, Melvin Richard Guard was a prisoner of war during World War II in Germany for more than a year, while my paternal grandfather, Louis William Panchaud, guarded American caught German prisoners of war sent to Bermuda. My uncle Robert Sanford Richards served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. My grandmother’s brother, my great uncle Loren Breeden served also in the Army during WWII. My uncle Larry Dean Guard fought in Vietnam and my brother, Brian David Panchaud, served in Iraq during Desert Storm. I served almost 23 years in the United States Navy retiring as a Chief Petty Officer and my husband, Gary Steven Onorati was a career Marine, giving more than 21 years to the Corps, retiring as a Master Gunnery Sergeant and my father-in-law Armando Valifrank Onorati served in the Army during the Korean War. My oldest son, Riean James Onorati carried on the family tradition and served as a member of the Tennessee National Guard.
A few years ago, while he was serving in Iraq as a military consultant, I received a sobering comment from my brother on Facebook. He said, “I believe hell is empty, as pure evil walks the earth here in Iraq.” But even with that knowledge, he truly believed in what he and his unit were doing to help the Iraqi people.
I am proud of my family’s contributions to our great nation and to the countries they have called home. I am also proud of those whom I call friends and those I don’t know personally. Without their sacrifice, I would not be living the life I have today.