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Monday, July 25, 2016

The Vaughn brothers: Saluting those who served

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

As yet another year winds to an all too quick end, the month of November brings with it opportunities to reflect on the many things we, as Americans, have to be thankful for and also provides a time to show respect for those who have died defending the liberties we hold dear by way of participation in services, parades and even laying wreaths on graves of family members and friends who were veterans. Veterans Day is also a day to celebrate the lives we are so blessed to have as a result of the veterans actions who have fought for centuries in wars across the globe to insure our freedoms as Americans.

Looking back to World War II, veteran Victor Vaughn, an area resident, spent the morning with the Villager Journal reflecting on the war, its impacts on his family and life in general. Other than the four years Vaughn spent in the United States Army, he has lived in the Sharp and Fulton County area near his rural Cherokee Village home for the entire 90 years of his life.

Vaughn is the last surviving son of the late Bannie and George Cleveland Vaughn. Vaughn, along with his three brothers were all drafted into World War II and taken from their homes to defend and protect America during some of America's darkest hours. Vaughn said his brother Leymon was in the first round of draftees taken by the Army from Fulton County on March 20, 1941; he was drafted shortly thereafter on June 11; followed later by his brother Clifford in 1942; and finally, his youngest brother Revel in 1944. Vaughn also has a "baby sister" who lives in Jacksonville and is in her 80s. Despite what many may have heard throughout the years, there was no clause in the draft petitions during that time protecting families with more than one son in the military.

Vaughn says he had very little formal education, because during that time, schooling was only for three months during the summer and three months during the winter. He said he can read and write, which was more than evident in his very detailed notes of his family's service records. He received training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and then went to Fort Hood, Texas, for about a year and then to bases in both California and Arizona. Vaughn was a tank driving instructor and said, "I was lucky, boy, I don't know why I wasn't sent overseas." He went back to Fort Leonard Wood where he remained until his discharge in 1945.

Clifford was also another one of the lucky Vaughn brothers during the war. He was sent to Alaska, where he spent his four years in the Army, during the war, never having to see the atrocities that were occurring on the European front.

During Vaughn's stent in the Army, his brother's Leymon and Revel weren't as lucky. Shortly after being trained at Fort Chaffey, Leymon was sent to Australia, then to New Guinea during the bloodiest part of World War II. Vaughn said Leymon spent three years overseas without one furlough home.

In May of 1944, Revel, the youngest son of Bannie and George Vaughn, was drafted into the Army, despite having received a prior deferral to help with the family farm. Revel was in another group from Fulton County who were taken to Texas for a short period of training before being sent to Europe to a replacement center for soldiers in the infantry who had lost their lives, been injured or sent home. Vaughn said after Revel went overseas the family tried to contact his brother for months, but never heard from him. After attempting in vain, the family was notified that he was declared missing in action in December of 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe. This was just over six months after the private left rural Fulton County with no official training in the infantry. The 22-year-old body was returned to the United States for burial in 1946. Vaughn said he wasn't even sure if the body the Army sent was that of his brother Revel, just that the family received a body and never opened the casket. They then buried him in the family cemetery in rural Fulton County.

The Battle of the Bulge was also called the Ardennes Offensive for the Ardennes Mountain region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. The battle that eventually led to an allied victory, lasted from December 1944 to January 1945 and was fought in bone chilling sub-zero conditions against the Germans and has went down in history as the bloodiest single battle in World War II. Statistics from the Department of Defense state that 19,000 American soldiers were killed in the fight, 47,500 wounded and an additional 23,000 were declared missing in action. To many, these are staggering numbers, but each number represents a life lost and a family's suffering the same as the Vaughn family.

Vaughn reflected on his life in the Army. He said, "Nowadays, they go in the Army for help with schooling; back then it was strictly to fight." Vaughn said his mother never got over losing Revel; he said she was never the same after the death of her youngest son. He said she passed away at age 67 and, Vaughn added, "I am sure that is what the cause was."

This type of emotional wound is something that never heals, but, unfortunately, is a necessary evil for Americans to remain free and enjoy the daily liberties that many take for granted. This is something Vaughn fully understands. He said he was very proud of his brother. The family's loss is just one of the millions throughout the history of warfare, yet it is easy to just think in terms of numbers, rather than the actual lives each number represents. Each number is a person's son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, niece, nephew, friend, grandson, granddaughter or loved one, and for each life lost, many who are still alive must suffer the loss, in many cases for years.

Vaughn also talked about his life, his marriage and his sons. He said he met his wife Mary in 1943 during maneuvers in Tennessee. He said he parked in her grandmother's yard. He recalls with a huge smile, "A man, his wife and two daughters came out to talk to him." He said he couldn't keep his eyes off Mary, and although his unit was only in the area a short time, he was able to get her address and they kept in touch while he completed his term in the Army. Vaughn said with a smile, they married on Christmas Eve in 1946. He brought her back to Arkansas, where they lived for 57 years until her death in 2003.

Throughout Vaughn's life he said, he and his brother Leymon worked at livestock auctions in the area, including the Ash Flat Livestock Auction. The Vaughns had two sons, Victor Jr. and Mike. He said his sons do dozer work in the area. Vaughn lives in a very peaceful rural setting and enjoys his hen house where he spends a lot of his time. He said he doesn't do much but likes to get outside and he also sells farm eggs. His open plan log home that he and his sons built allows him plenty of space to move about in his wheelchair. For being 90 years old, Vaughn said he is pretty healthy other than having bad knees, which he attributes to being kicked by a cow years ago.

With Veteran's Day quickly approaching, take time to reflect on lives lost, the fortune of the lives we have, and most of all, find a veteran and do something nice for them, -- thank them, hug them, take them out to lunch -- just let them know how much America appreciate their sacrifices.

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