Dear Uncle Joe,
We never met. You would have been my great uncle. You were my grandma’s baby brother. You died when my mom was 4 months old. You were on the battlefield, fighting what is now called the Battle of Luzon. You were 11 days shy of turning 19. Your body was buried in Manila along with some of your brothers whom also lost their lives during World War II.
My mom told me you wrote her mom (your sister) a letter shortly after she was born. You said you were excited to meet your sister’s new baby. Sadly, that never happened.
Even though we never met, and you died long before I was even born, I feel like I lost something.
Knowing the rest of our family, I just know you would have been a “favorite” great uncle!
I have some pretty awesome uncles. They are some of my favorite people. We have a super fun family and I can just picture your personality!
I miss you. I miss your silly jokes. I miss having to endure the smoke from your cigarettes. I miss hearing stories about how things were back in “your day”.
Of course, I can’t really “miss” any of these things, because you died far too young.
I miss what could have been. What should have been.
I know my grandma, your sister, missed you… her annoying baby brother. I’m sure she would have been happy for you to be able to pester her until her dying day.
Why did you lie about your age and enter the service at 17? Why did you feel such a passion to serve your country?
I have such mixed emotions about your decision to do that. Of course I feel pride. I’m proud of all the men in my family that served our country.
I also feel a bit of sadness. And almost a bit of anger. Because, you see Uncle Joe, the rest of my uncles and all my grandpas… they came home from the war. I still got to spend time with them and get to know them. They were all wonderful men. And I know you were too.
Maybe it’s also because your picture looks so much like my own brother? I can’t imagine having to live most of my life without him like your sisters did.
I told my kids about you today. Through tears, I told them of your selflessness to enter the service to protect those that were unable to protect themselves. They had mixed emotions, too. They thought it was cool what you did, but sad that you weren’t able to come back home.
Oh, and you know what? You probably already know this, but in Colorado, where you are from, they have a VFW post named after you!
On their website, they have a little information about you and how you died.
“Joseph J. Jacques, Jr., was born in Denver, Colorado on Feb 22, 1926. He was the son of Lydia F. and Joseph J. Jacques. In April of 1943 he enlisted in the military service. Following basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas he was placed in company “F” of the 27th infantry regiment, and he took part in several battle engagements in the south pacific during World War II.
His commanding officer, Captain Joseph J. Koontz wrote, “He was killed in the performance of his duty while fighting the enemies of our great country. The company was attacking a hill occupied by the enemy, who was well dug in approximately four and one-half miles north east of San Jose, in the Talavera River Valley, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Late in the afternoon of Feb 11, 1945, a final assault was made to take the hill and as he went forward he was shot in the chest and died instantly. His courage was an inspiration to all of the men and the hill was finally secured from the enemy.”
His remains are placed in plot “A”, row “5”, grave “175” in Mania, Philippine, Islands.”
I found this picture of your gravesite.
I also found this information regarding the battles that were fought where you died.
“Ultimately ten U.S. divisions and five independent regiments would see action on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific war and involving more troops than the United States had used in North Africa, Italy, or southern France.” – source
You were definitely a part of something big!
Thank you so much for your service. Thank you for being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of your life so that my kids and I could live in this great country in freedom.
Now that my grandma has passed on, I’m sure you have reunited with her. Will you give her a hug for me? I miss her dearly.
I love you both.