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Grandmother's letter about WWII gives Memorial Day special meaning for Edna woman

By JR Ortega
May 25, 2014 at 12:25 a.m.
Updated May 26, 2014 at 12:26 a.m.

Lena Sanders' three sons left Yoakum for the Army during World War II, and all returned but one. Sgt. Eugene John Sanders died when the bus he was traveling home in was struck by a train. Joan Dees found a letter written by her late grandmother, Lena Sanders, that honored her son on Memorial Day.

'A Memorial To Our Boys'

(Written in memory of Sgt. Eugene John Sanders)

May this Memorial Day bring back to our minds and hearts the sacrifices made by our boys in every line of duty, in the air, on the land, or seas. May their memories be kept fresh and their graves kept green, by all who are reaping the benefits of the giving of their lives, for the rights and privileges of living in this glorious country, "Our own United States of America."

"Greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friend." Just as our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, laid down His life that we the people of all generations may have the privilege of acquiring everlasting life and peace, in the world to come; let us hope and pray that the laying down of these young lives may instill into the hearts of all Americans the love, honor and adoration due our Divine Savior, so this country so blessed by God may return to His service and seek His guidance.

In remembering our beloved dead, let us not forget their buddies, who have returned maimed, blind or crippled for life; let us do what lies within our power to help these most forgotten ones.

Let us forget our own selfishness in the loss of our loved ones, and dedicate ourselves on this Memorial Day to daily prayer, so the people of this country may return to the knowledge of God and our Statesmen seek His guidance in administering the affairs of our Government, and return to the "Ten Commandments of God" as the basis for the law of our land, the observance of which, and no other, will return peace to the world, and will cause this country to remain the free country for which our boys fought and died.

  • By his mother, Mrs. Lena M. Sanders, May 1955.

IF YOU GO

The Victoria County Veterans Council will present its Memorial Day program. At 7:30 a.m. Monday is the "to the color" ceremony, and at 11 a.m. Monday is the start of the ceremony at the gazebo at DeLeon Plaza. Guest speaker is 27th District Congressman Blake Farenthold. Other activities include placing of the wreaths by several area veterans posts and chapters. Charles Hauboldt will play taps. Richard Garcia and Roger Walleck will read the names of veterans who have died since the last Memorial Day program.

EDNA - Sgt. Eugene John Sanders walked aboard the crowded bus of military men, made his way to the back and looked straight ahead, his sights set on home.

It was February 1942, and Sanders, 26, was on his way home to Yoakum from the war.

The bus crested a slight hill as a train came through. The bus driver, thinking he could beat the train, continued over the tracks, and that's how Sanders died.

This is the story as Joan Dees knows it: the story of her uncle, a man she never knew, never coming back home.

"It was so sad," said Dees, 70, of Edna.

She'd heard the story passed down from her mother before, but when she discovered a letter to the editor her grandmother wrote in a May 1955 Yoakum Herald Times paper, she nearly cried.

Her grandmother, Lena Mary Sanders - Sanders' mother - never talked about the pain associated with his death. Her grandmother also had two other sons fight in World War II.

Dees found the letter in a box that another relative who had died left for her.

What her grandmother wrote in honor of Memorial Day encapsulated American pride in just a few paragraphs, Dees said.

"May this Memorial Day bring back to our minds and hearts the sacrifices made by our boys in every line of duty, in the air, on the land, or sea," she wrote. "May their memories be kept fresh and their graves kept green, by all who are reaping the benefits of the giving of their lives."

Dees has always been a proud American, working for those who fought on the front lines in some way, shape or form.

Reading that her grandmother was the same way is heartwarming.

"I was very impressed with it," she said. "She was trying to take a stand for what she believed in."

What makes the letter to the editor so meaningful was that Dees' grandmother taught herself everything she knew.

She read her dictionary to learn to speak, read and write more fluently.

"She was very big in her church, her family and country," she said. "I'm just a proud American just like Grandma was."

Though she never met her uncle and knows little about his personality, what Eugene John Sanders embodies to her is the American spirit - the willingness to give his life for his country, even though his death was not the direct result of war.

She owes how she feels for this country to a man she never met, she said.

"When I see a soldier, I think about what he's given up," Dees said.

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