Hamilton family shares map to connect military service stories

HAMILTON — Every year, the history of military service is lost for so many families.

“You get misty-eyed at times thinking about dad,” Steve Beckman said. “And maybe I should have asked these questions.”

Steve Beckman’s father, William, served in World War II and came home with history to share, but Beckman didn’t feel like his father was ready.

“He never talked about it, I really don’t think he would open up about it then,” Beckman said.

As time went by, Beckman’s family grew and young inquisitive minds began to unravel William Beckman’s military service in Europe.

“He went over when he was 18 years old, right out of high school,” said Beckman’s son, Chris.

Chris Beckman said his grandfather shared several stories tied to his service and was proud to have served within the 3rd Army, 3537 Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company. He interviewed his grandfather for a high school project and the information he gleaned was eye-opening for the entire family.

A hand-drawn map sent to his grandfather shows the arduous route from landing on Omaha Beach to their long trek across France into Germany and Belgium. There’s a story his grandfather told about a moment just before the Battle of the Bulge.

“He’s sitting out there, it’s cold, it’s, you know, it’s snowing out. And all of a sudden, he hears this like, faint sound in the air,” Beckman said. “Something kicks in, he jumps underneath the truck and seconds later, you know, bullet holes, right where he was standing.”

His grandfather survived the air strike. It’s one of a handful of stories told over the years. However, Chris and Steve Beckman still have many unanswered questions tied to photos taken during the war.

There’s one photo with people in a room and a swastika on the back wall.

“It almost looks like a nurse’s station,” Chris Beckman said. “They could have maybe taken over the area and rested in there.”

Random photos show a single moment from the war, but with little to no context of what’s in the image. With the passing of his grandfather, the stories stopped.

“You know, you never really realized the life he lived and the stories he had to tell,” Chris Beckman said.

“I should have asked these questions. And I didn’t, but they did. So that’s good,” Steve Beckman said.

While Steve Beckman regrets not asking more about his father’s service, he’s very thankful his kids did ask. Now Chris has a collection of stories and memories of discussions tied to his grandfather, written down to be able to pass on to future generations of the family.

“If you don’t write them down, they’re gone,” Chris Beckman said. “I’ll be doing something I’ll think of something he said, and I’ll jot it down real quick. Again, it’s just if you don’t write it down, it’s gone forever.”

The family wanted to share the images of the 3rd Army map in case another family in the area is trying to piece together their own military family history.

Click here to view the map in high resolution.

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