In honor of Veterans Day, The Inter-Mountain set out in search of readers who make a habit of honoring the veterans in their families not just once a year, but each and every day. We wanted to know why they were so proud of their veteran relatives and what life lessons those veterans had instilled in their minds and hearts.
Keep reading for three star-spangled stories of selflessness, sacrifice and unconditional love for the United States of America.
A family's service
Bowden resident Jerry Jerow is one of the few members of his family who hasn't served in the military.
His father, William Jerow, was a Navy serviceman who was on the USS Honolulu in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. One of his brothers, Tom E. Jerow, served in the Navy in Cadiz, Spain, while his other brother, Tim Jerow, spent 20 years in the Air Force and was stationed in Spain, Alaska, Colorado and Maryland.
Jerry Jerow's daughter, Jennifer Jerow Vance, joined the Army in September 2000, and she was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., when the United States invaded Iraq following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. His son, Robert Jerow, enlisted in March 1999 and currently serves as a sergeant 1st class with the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Clark in Afghanistan.
His family members' service has inspired Jerry Jerow to serve others, even if it isn't militarily.
"My family has always given to their community and country, and it has always made me want to give back to all those who have given so much," he said.
He's tried to do so through coaching and teaching social studies for more than three decades. He also is a member of the Sons of the American Legion Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach, Md., where he lives for six months out of the year.
Jerow also honors his family members' service by taking the wisdom they impart to heart.
"If there is one thing I learned from my son, daughter and dad, it was that the USA should never get into a war unless it is directly attacked," Jerow said. "They all think that going to war should be only a last resort and never done just because we fear that we will be attacked. I guess it takes people who have seen combat to really grasp the horrors of war."
A husband's passion
Jennifer Morrison's husband, Joshua, was working in Boston on Sept. 11, 2001. As a cautionary measure, his building was evacuated.
As Joshua Morrison watched the towers burn that day, he decided he couldn't stand just standing there - he wanted to do something. That's why he went to the nearest recruiting station and joined the Army.
"Since then, it has been a little crazy," Jennifer Morrison said.
Joshua Morrison signed his contract in November 2002, and his wife said his passion has never wavered. He was twice deployed to Iraq, from 2004 to 2005 for 13 months and from 2006 to 2007 for 15 months. He's been stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany; Fort Hood, Texas; and Berlin, N.H.; - and finally in Elkins, where he serves as the station commander for the Elkins Army Recruiting Station.
"He's missed his children's birthdays, anniversaries - we didn't get to celebrate one together until year five - weddings and funerals," Jennifer Morrison said.
Nonetheless, "he sets such an amazing example to his children, showing them commitment, loyalty and love of county," his wife said. "He has earned many awards and medals for his service and the unwavering admiration of his family."
Buckhannon native Jessica Hays recently lost her grandfather, James Leonard Hays, who passed away after devoting much of his life to selflessly serving his country.
James Leonard Hays was enlisted in the Army during World War II. He served from June 4, 1943, to April 16, 1946, as a member of the 60th Field Artillery, 9th Infantry Division.
But his service didn't stop when the war ceased. Soon after, he joined the Army Reserves as a Level 3 chief warrant officer, a civilian position.
"There are four levels," Jessica Hays noted with pride. "Grandpa was extremely proud to have served our country. Some of my greatest memories are of listening to him and my dad talk about their service years."
The story Jessica Hays describes as her grandfather's "legacy" is one that's been told in her family time and again. Hays' grandfather underwent training to become a pilot in the Army - but he was transferred based on a handful of crash landings linked to issues with depth perception.
"How many people can say they crashed a plane?" Hays said.
Just before James Leonard Hays passed away, he requested that the military's combined Honor Guard perform ceremonial last rites - including taps, a gun salute and the presentation of an American flag to his son and Jessica Hays' dad, James Richard Hays, who is also a veteran.
"It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen," Jessica Hays recalled.
"Words cannot describe the respect and dignity that those gentlemen gave to my grandfather!
"When I think of the freedoms and liberty we have," she continued, "I think about the sacrifices of not only my own family members, but those that other service men and women have made to serve, protect and honor our country. Proud doesn't begin to explain how I feel about knowing these individuals, who have made it possible for each of us to live a life of freedom."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.