Lind: Brothers in arms
More than 300,000 United States military veterans and war casualties are buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. One October day in 2009, they were joined by Colin Sillers, one of the three Sillers brothers from Calvin, N.D., ...
More than 300,000 United States military veterans and war casualties are buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
One October day in 2009, they were joined by Colin Sillers, one of the three Sillers brothers from Calvin, N.D., who served in the military during World War II.
He had died the previous December in Alameda, Calif.
Colin's grandson Doug of Santa Barbara, Calif., the son of Colin's son Coby of Atlanta, spoke at the memorial service. He told of the brothers' military history, how they had come from a strong family and noted that "Strong families make for a strong America."
This is the story of such a family.
College, the military
Archie Sillers had been a banker, but the Depression closed the bank, forcing him and his wife, Mabel, to move to a farm at Calvin.
They had three sons: Kip, Douglas and Colin. Mabel had graduated from the University of North Dakota in the early 1900s, and she and Archie were determined that their boys would get college degrees, also. And they did: Kip from UND and Douglas and Colin from Concordia College.
Kip, who was in the ROTC at UND, was called up by the Army when the war began, and Colin enlisted in the Navy Air Corps.
Douglas was drafted, received a temporary deferment so he could help his ailing father get the crop off, then enlisted in the Navy.
Having all three sons on active duty during the war was difficult for Archie and Mabel. But their "strong faith helped them," according to Cynthia Sillers of Moorhead, their granddaughter and the daughter of Douglas, "and they knew they had done what they could do to pass that faith on to their sons."
Douglas said, for example, that his parents sent him a copy of the 121st Psalm, which opens with, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and Earth."
Kip was stationed in England for three years and took part in the invasion of Normandy, as did Douglas, who served on a landing ship crossing the English Channel.
Colin was a member of the Black Cat Raiders, the Catalina patrol bombers that were painted black and flew night raids against the Japanese. He was slightly wounded, the only one of the Sillers boys to be injured.
Then came June 14, 1945, the day when Mabel wrote in her diary was "the most momentous day in my life." It was the day Japan agreed to surrender.
The small town of Calvin lost some men in the war. That made the Sillers all the more grateful their sons came home safely.
All were officers: Kip was discharged as a lieutenant colonel, Douglas as a second lieutenant, and Colin retired as a commander.
After the war, Kip and his family farmed near Calvin, then moved to Langdon, N.D., where he died in 2006.
Douglas, now 95 and living with his wife, Margaret, in Fargo, farmed near Moorhead and served in the Minnesota Legislature for 18 years.
Colin, a career Navy man, lived with his family on several Navy bases. His last assignment was as executive officer of the Naval Air Station in Alameda.
Colin was awarded several medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
Cynthia says all three brothers exemplified the meaning of having strong families: Each was married for more than 60 years. And each carried out their parents' admonition to be grateful for what had been given them and to live lives that would benefit others, be it as civilians or in the military.
And now the youngest of the three was about to be buried at Arlington.
On this beautiful fall day, Colin's casket was placed on a horse-drawn wagon that then followed a Navy honor guard from the chapel down the quiet, tree-lined streets to the cemetery.
Dozens of people, both adults and children, stopped and stood quietly, hands over their hearts, as the procession went by, and servicemen and women snapped to attention and saluted.
At the grave site, prayers were raised, music was played by a Navy band, a bugler played taps, and the flag was presented to Coby.
And then Colin, with his brother Douglas and other family members looking on, was laid to rest among the 300,000 other heroes at Arlington.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org