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Leon Vern McGaver was born to Joseph and Myrtle McGaver on June 26, 1924, in Fairchild, Wisconsin. He was a loving son, a fun loving brother to five siblings, and friend to many; however, Leon was never able to become a husband, father, or grandfather as his life was taken May 2, 1945, on Okinawa Island, Ryukyu Islands in service to his country as a United States Marine during World War II.
As Leon's oldest sister, I remember growing up and working on the family farm together. We milked cows, drove horses, picked beans and potatoes, and carried water and wood every day into the old farm house for a family to ten. We all worked hard, but I do remember Leon's great sense of humor and that he loved to tease. He completed high school, graduated in 1942, and was drafted into the service on his twentieth birthday, June 26, 1944. Leon never reached his twenty-first birthday.
Our whole small community of Fairchild, Wisconsin, had been affected by World War II as was our whole Country. Neighbors and families bonded with mutual concerns for their friends and relatives as we watched our fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, cousins, and schoolmates leave home to support the war efforts. I vividly remember my Father telling Mr. Nelson at the telegraph office not to deliver any messages about the status of my brother, Leon, to our home unless my Dad's car was parked in the driveway. My Mother was worried and apprehensive from the moment he left for military training and especially, because during his Navy training he was "picked" to become a Marine. Leon told us he was "picked" because he was over six feet tall, as were the other "chosen" Marines. As Marines, many of the local boys had become prisoners of war and/or had been killed in action.
Our family had not heard from Leon for several weeks, when the dreaded day arrived and Mr. Nelson from the telegraph office delivered the first notice that Leon V. McGaver was missing in action. This message was delivered on Fathers Day, June 1945, although he had been missing for over a month. The final devastating notice confirming his death arrived on my parent's wedding anniversary, July 10, 1945. Our anguish of not knowing the plight of my brother for over two months is no more than what the veteran's families today experience even though the communications are more efficient and faster today.
On August 15, 1945, the church bells rang, town sirens went off and people were dancing in the streets - the war was over! My mother collapsed into my arms in sorrow.
Our brother, Private Leon V. McGaver, U.S. Marine Corps was buried in Okinawa and later his remains were laid to rest at the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii. His grave site has been honored and visited by friends and family members. Of his 13 nieces and nephews, 21 great nieces and nephews, and 19 great-great nieces and nephews, only one niece was born before he left for the Navy. Although he has not shared the last 64 years with us, he is still dearly missed by our family and we are proud of his service to his Country. We cherish the honors that he received: the Presidential Unit Citation with Ribbon Bar and One Star awarded First Marine Division, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Victory Medal of World War II, and the Purple Heart. The American Legion Post, Fairchild, Wisconsin, was renamed Newman McGaver after World War II.
I thank Families United For Our Troops and Their Mission for developing the Gold Star Registry and for giving us the opportunity to tell Leon's story. Our family continues to share in the grief, understands the heartaches, and honors Veterans and the military families serving today.
Helen McGaver Schultz