Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twice a Veteran

Daniel Bickerstaff was my great-uncle, one of my grandmother Meinzen's younger brothers.

Every source of information I have for him tells me that he was born April 9, 1897. Every source, that is, except his World War I Draft Registration card.

This card was completed during the first registration on June 5, 1917, a registration limited to those who were born between June 6, 1886 and June 5, 1896. Daniel was too young by 10 months to register. While the image itself is not very clear, if you enlarge it, you can easily see that for entry number "3 Date of Birth" he wrote "April 9, 1895." He suddenly became two years older and was able to enlist (or be drafted).

I don't know his motive for claiming to be two years older than he was. Did he believe in the cause of the War? Was he eager for adventure? I always knew Uncle Dan as an unmarried man and only recently learned that he'd been married and was divorced. Perhaps things were difficult in his marriage, though one would think that going to war as an alternative to solving marriage problems would be turning in bad for worse. I rather assume that as a 20-year-old, he looked at war as a grand adventure and as way to show his patriotism.

I don't know details of his military service. I don't know if he enlisted or was drafted, nor when or where his military service began.

How heart-wrenching it must have been for his parents, Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff, to see their too-young son go off to war. These days young men who are 18 can easily enlist. In those days, at the beginning of World War I, it didn't happen - except in situations like my uncle's where young men altered their birth records.

Dan served in World War II also. He would have been in his mid-40s by that time. I remember Uncle Dan as a man who was always physically active and physically fit. At 45, he was probably still in excellent physical condition. As I've been thinking about his military service and his age change for WWI, I wonder what happened when he enlisted during WWII. Did the military have a record of his previous service along with his birthdate? When he completed the WWII draft registration did he change his age again and this time make himself younger? I haven't yet seen his World War II Draft Registration card. It will probably answer some questions for me.

Below are three photos I found in my grandmother's album. They are of Uncle Dan with his father, Edward Jesse, and his sister, Cora. They look like they were taken on a military base. There is no information on the backs of the photos to identify date or location.

Daniel's and Cora's mother, Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff passed away on September 6, 1940. I suspect that these photos were taken sometime after that since she's not in them. Cora was in her late 20's and still living at home when her mother passed away. I think E. J. looks very stoic but I think Cora looks on the verge of tears. It would be a frightening thing to send a brother, son, or husband off to war. Gratefully, Dan survived the war was welcomed home.

To all those soldiers, past and present, who have served the cause of freedom in our United States armed forces and sacrificed in more ways than I can imagine, I say thank you. So many times in life those two little words just don't seem enough for some grand offering or service performed. It is particularly true with regards to those who serve our country.


  1. I think Cora must have still be feeling the loss of her mom, and couldn't bear the thought of losing a brother.

    Thanks for sharing these photos and your Uncle Dan's story. If you don't mind, I'd like to link to your blog from mine...

  2. I'm glad that Dan survived. Wonderful post, and thanks for commemorating the soldiers who fought for us.

  3. What a great post. Interesting to think what would happen concerning his age when he inlisted for WW II... Hopefully you'll be able to find hisregistration card.

  4. dee-burris, I agree. I'm sure she feared the loss of one more loved-one. You're welcome to link to my blog from yours. Thank you.

  5. A wonderful post, Nancy! And what a reminder to us that information may have been "fudged" for various reasons in records.

    Have you submitted a request for his military records? I usually takes some time to get them, but is well worth it. Some records were lost due to fire, but it's always worth it. Even with records lost they can reconstruct some of them!

    Happy Veterans Day (a little late!)

  6. Regarding the, I feel your language about stealing is a bit harsh. Actually, she has properly cited this image with a Works Cited page which she submitted to me. However, I will ask her to remove the picture at your request.

    1. Hi. I couldn't find a Works Cited page when I went back to the slide show, but even so, without permission of the owner to use and republish the work, it's a violation of copyright. Thanks for asking her to remove it.

  7. picture has been removed at your request. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for removing it, Kelsey.


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