Frank McElvain Reveals The Family Lessons Learned from War in New Book SFC: A Poor Man's Battle
By: MFM Publishing
"My father, John McElvain, was a U.S. Soldier, a son of a sharecropper from Alabama. He received a Bronze Star for breaching the Nazi Siegfried Line but, as we learned later, was captured by the Germans only to be released by his own battalion at the end of the war. Then he returned home. My mother, well that is a whole story unto itself."
His mother, Hedy McElvain, was a Bavarian woman and survivor of the Third Reich whose family was punished by the Nazis. "My mother's father worked at a train station and was accused of loading luggage of Jewish passengers which was ordered to be left behind. He was beaten, lost his job, and never was the same. Meantime her family and friends suffered labor camp incarceration and also became unemployable. Those were tough times that left many scars on her and her family."
His parents met at a German dance hall frequented by U.S. soldiers after John reenlisted in the Army and returned to Germany. But McElvain's mother had other suitors. "Our father was not my mother's first lover, her first child, a girl, was thought to have another soldier as her father. Her aunt and uncle, who could not bear children, wanted to keep her. However, my father convinced mom and the rest of her family that the child had to go with them and grow up in America."
McElvain, who in addition to his sister also has a brother, said due to their cultural differences his mother and father had some tumultuous battles. "Mom was a real firecracker. We witnessed a few of those arguments. Neither wanted to budge when they made up their mind and we later learned some shocking secrets they kept to themselves, only discovered after they were both gone."
"Clearing out their estate we found out my mother had love letters from a German fiancé who fought for the Nazis in the war. He was stationed on the eastern front then disappeared never to be heard from again."
"Then, after Dad retired from the military, he had an affair, and there were letters sent to him from his lover."
"We learned more about my father's first wife, whom he married after the war but before returning to Germany for his second enlistment. Both his wife and baby died in childbirth. A period of depression further fueled by unemployment, drove John back to the military. If John's first wife had survived none of us would be here."
McElvain also got more details about his father's service in Vietnam. "John served as a medic and helped save the lives of not only U.S. soldiers but also Vietnamese families. For his actions, he was promoted to his highest ranking of Sergeant First Class."
Despite all the secrets and scars, McElvain said the family was able to sustain. "John and Hedy were married for 49 years. They did an admirable job of raising their three kids and were good grandparents. I drew upon the extensive travels to Germany we made over the years, including the time we spent with Hedy's first fiance's younger brother. He said, 'When you think about it took some incredible events and a world war for us to be sitting together today.'
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