Honoring Those Who Served, with Help from the National Archives
During the 1980s and 1990s at family gatherings in Detroit and Georgia relatives talked about their Vietnam War military experiences. As the Carreker/Jones family historian, I became interested in documenting family members’ existence in the United States military. By 2011, through oral history and reviewing some written documents, I compiled a list of 64 Carreker/Jones, African American family members or their spouses, who served in the military during the past 100 years. I knew some military information would be unrestricted and some documents could only be obtained from the Veterans Administration by written request of the veteran or their immediate family members.
From the list, I identified 22 family members who served in Vietnam. The recovered bodies of three family members who served in Vietnam were returned to the U.S. I discovered that, if you are seeking information and documenting military family history, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an excellent place to do research: NARA has archives research facilities nationwide.
In 2002 in the United States, there was a theme, which stated “Honor Those Who Served.” The list I compiled is only the beginning of my efforts to document and “Honor” family members who served in the military. In 2011, at the NARA-Northeast Region New York City location, I perused the National Archives and Record Administration, Vietnam War: U.S. Military Casualties list, 1956-1998. I identified the names and information about three relatives (all under age 24) on this Casualties list:
1. Charlie Thomas Neal, Birth Date 1946-02-02, Casualty Date 1969-05-11, Casualty Type - Hostile, Died, Home-Atlanta, Georgia;
2. Darrel Andre Shellie, Birth Date 1947-11-02, Casualty Date 1968-02-01, Casualty Type - Hostile, Died, Home-Detroit, Michigan; and
3. Arnold Bruce Wimberly, Birth Date 1946-08-06, Casualty Date 1968-09-04, Casualty Type - Hostile, Died, Home-Highland Park, Michigan.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, I located the names of my three family members who died in Vietnam.
Further, at NARA’s Northeast Region in New York City, I located information on U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006, and the National Cemetery Administration (Nationwide Gravesite Locator). These documents contained information on veteran family members, Benoit Carreker and Errol T. Rucker, buried in Michigan. I found NARA has valuable military and genealogical information and it is a rich repository of American history.
by William Carreker