Johnny Ulfers – A Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Some will visit cemeteries to visit loved ones, and some will attend Memorial Day services or ceremonies. Hopefully all will pause to give thanks for those who fought for our freedom but didn’t make it back home.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I would go spend time with our grandpa and step-grandma on their farm. Grandma had the upstairs bedrooms named: Anita’s room, the west room, and Johnny’s room. I remember being afraid to touch any of Johnny’s things, because they were so special to grandma. There was a model car on one dresser that I remember thinking was so cool, which made me think that Johnny himself must have been cool.

On the main level of the house, grandma had a sun room of sorts. It had a seating area, steps that led out to the sidewalk in front of the house, and a built in display area in a corner near the steps. That display area was very special to grandma.

Johnny entered the military in June, 1967, just a few months before I was born. He was killed in action in Vietnam in November, 1968.

In grandma’s display area, she had his purple heart, his medals, a few photos, and the flag that draped his coffin. Every so often, she would talk about Johnny, and show us on the map where he was killed. His death impacted her deeply, but I was too young to realize how deeply until recently.

John Ulfers Memorial Obituary

John was not the first of grandma’s family to be killed in action. Her only brother was killed in WW II in France. The military honors at John’s committal service were performed by the Bertus Jurgens Post Number 283, which was named after John’s uncle, grandma’s brother. Grandma went through the heartache of losing two very special men during war time. She also experienced the loss of her mother, and her first husband. Those losses help to explain why grandma seemed so deeply affected by Johnny’s death. She also understood the need for talking about family members who passed on before us, and the importance of introducing us to the family members we never had the chance to know. I am thankful that she shared her stories, and that we felt like we knew our step-uncle a little.

On this Memorial Day, I hope that you will take the time to share memories of your loved ones, pray for those who have lost family members who were fighting for our freedom, and give thanks that we live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave.

John B Ulfers Vietnam Wall


Thank You Seems Inadequate

Memorial Day is a day set aside in the United States to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Many of us also remember all the family members and loved ones who have also gone on before us. Some will decorate graves with flags and flowers.

Sometimes, I wonder. Is one day enough to pay our respects to our military families, or the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice?¬† Shouldn’t we be thinking of them, praying for them, and showing our appreciation¬†every day?

When I was growing up, we would visit my grandparent’s home in Iowa during the summer. In one corner, grandma had a little display area where she kept photos of my step-uncle, along with his medals and the flag that draped his coffin. He died when I was a toddler, so I never had the chance to meet him. Grandma would tell us stories of Johnnie, and we would always look at his bedroom upstairs, which was decorated exactly as it was when he left for Vietnam. Whenever Jonathan and I have been to Washington, DC, we always stop by the Vietnam Wall on a night tour. All 4 times we have taken this tour, it is either foggy and freezing cold, or raining. The weather makes this visit very emotional every time. But I wonder, is an occasional visit to a monument honoring these men and women enough?

Uncle Johnnie….John B Ulfers



Right now, my youngest brother is serving in the Army. He has been deployed for the past 10 months, leaving his wife and three sons state-side. I am loving the fact that they are in Minnesota, although with our winter, I’m not sure they are as thrilled! Although I haven’t been able to see them in person as much as I’d like, I have gotten to know them a little better. It is difficult for the extended families to really get to know the children of military families when they are living so far away. I feel blessed that we’ve been able to connect with our nephews this year.

Bruce, Heidi, and their boys at a Twins game July 2012


While we have been able to connect with our nephews, my brother has missed out on many of their milestone events. They are fortunate that Bruce has been able to come home for short visits a couple of times, but that doesn’t make up for the things he’s missed.

What this year has taught me, is how important it is to support the military families as well as those who are deployed. My sister-in-law is a single parent to these three very active boys while her husband is away. I have always admired the way Heidi gets the boys involved in sports, and takes them off base to explore the area they are in. She has also gotten involved in spouse groups (mostly other women, but there’s been a few men as well), and has been active in running groups, and Bible studies. While in Minnesota, though, they have not had the advantage of living on a military base where everyone is pretty much in the same situation.

It seems as though people really can’t grasp the scope of the impact a deployment has on a family. There have been some incredibly insensitive comments from “friends” of hers on Facebook that are quite appalling. Once again, I have to admire Heidi, and the way she handles these people. This makes me wonder, is saying “Thank You” one day a year really enough?

Today, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of emotional photos and memes telling us how we need to remember the fallen, and thank those who are currently serving. It is good to spread that message, but how many of those who are posting these memes today will shake the hand of a soldier tomorrow? How many of us have sent an encouraging word to the military spouses who are being single parents while their husband or wife are deployed? How many of us have volunteered to watch their children so they can have a day to relax? How many of us have helped to mow lawns, or shovel driveways, or pick up an extra car-pool shift?

Remembering the fallen on Memorial Day is good. But sometimes, saying thank you to those who are currently serving just seems inadequate. Please, take the time to show your appreciation throughout the year.

Thank you for your service, Maj. Bredlow! We’re proud of you, brother!