11“I didn’t know what was going on. My grandmother was in the yard when I came home from school for lunch and she told me,” said John F., of Boardman.
“I later learned that when anyone saw a taxicab in Mingo Junction at that time, you knew someone was hurt or killed,” he said.
Thomas, who died at age 19, was one of 24 Grantonic family members — 20 men and four women — from the Mingo Junction area who served in the U.S. military from World War I to 2004.
For John F., Memorial Day is not a day for picnics.
It is a solemn time to remember and honor his brother and all the other men and women who served their country in our nation’s military.
He traditionally visits his brother’s grave at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Steubenville and this year will attend an 11 a.m. Memorial Day service in Mingo Junction, when the names of Mingo Junction residents killed in WWII will be read.
He and his wife, Barbara, have seven children, one of whom, David J., served in the Air Force. Their other children are Anna Marie Francisco of Youngstown; Patti Evans of Elyria; Barbara J. Patton of Norfolk, Va.; Thomas of Boardman, who is manager of the D.D. & Velma Davis Family YMCA in Boardman; Andrea Reiser of Mercer, Pa.; and Matthew of New Middletown; and 15 grandchildren.
The amazing Grantonic family tradition of military service began with John J., John F.’s father, who entered the Army in 1917 during WWI.
John F., who served in the Ohio National Guard from 1951 to 1958, said his father was very involved in community affairs in Mingo Junction and active in the American Legion Post 351 there and many Slovak parades in nearby Toronto.
John J. involved his children in the Memorial Day parade and placing flags on veterans’ graves, and was a member of the legion post’s rifle squad, building the family military tradition, his son said.
“I am proud to be part of a family from which so many members served their nation in the military,” John F. said.
In their honor, he created a poster listing the names of all the family members who served in the military, including the branch of the military and the era in which they served.
He said several of the Grantonics had unusual experiences while serving their country.
George F., John F.’s brother, who served from 1943 to 1946 and was stationed on Guam, Leyte, Kerama Retto, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, had breakfast one day with Ernie Pyle, the renowned war correspondent, who was killed by a sniper later that day near George’s foxhole.
Also, while George was on rest and rehabilitation in the Philippines, he had a chance meeting with his cousin, Alice Mae, who was stationed there with the Women’s Army Corps.
He learned she was there when an officer approached him and said someone on the roster had the same last name.
William, a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, in a letter to his mother, said his unit parachuted on French soil before the regular troops landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day and tells of being wounded by shrapnel and recovering in a hospital in England.
Of the Germans, he wrote: “They sure are not the master race they claim to be. They gave up very early, but some fought to the end. It sure was a rough time.”
John F. said while he is proud of the part the Grantonics played over the past nearly 100 years in defending this country, he said there is a special place in his heart for all veterans who gave their time — and sometimes their lives — for the freedom Americans enjoy today.
He urged everyone to show their appreciation to veterans not just on Memorial Day but every day.