I knew there were heroes in my family. My maternal grandfather fought in some of history’s bloodiest battles and lived to tell us about it. But I never knew my Uncle Jacob. Not until a box of photos and service awards came into my possession.
I always knew my father had two deceased uncles. My grandmother would show me her old family scrapbooks all the time when I was a kid, and I remember pictures of her brothers Jacob and Morris. Morris’ death is still a bit of a mystery. Some family members say he died in a fire. Others say it was a ruptured appendix.
Uncle Jacob Katz was less of a mystery. I knew he died in the war, and a couple years ago my father gave me the flag that adorned his casket — a flag with 48 states, since Hawaii and Alaska weren’t admitted to the union until after his death.
Last week, my cousin Dennis and his wife Nancy gave me the box of memorabilia. It included Uncle Jacob’s Purple Heart and a letter President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had sent to the family:
There were also certificates honoring him from his hometown, Chelsea, Mass.:
The certificates and letters note that he died in the “North Africa area” in April 1943. So he may have died in Operation Torch, which commenced late in 1942. Or he could have died sometime after that campaign was over. One thing is clear: He gave his life for our freedom, and I’m grateful for that.
Thanks, Uncle Jacob.