We hope everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day. We spent part of our weekend visiting with the veterans in our own families, and leaving flowers at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetary for some of those who are no longer with us. Our veterans and their families are always in our thoughts and prayers, particularly on the holidays dedicated to remembrance.
Thank you again, from a grateful country.
John, and his cousins spent many of their younger years at the farm working alongside their Uncles, Fathers and Mothers. The Balen family went out of the mink business in the mid sixties but the farm remained. Uncle Mike continued spending his free time on the farm raising any animal he felt like and turned them all into pets with names. Reserved only for his pets, his favorite saying was “Who Loves Ya?”
Over time he started gardening on a larger scale now that the space was available. His sister and her husband who was also a combat veteran lived in the farmhouse with their two daughters. Uncle George was quite the gardener with his straw hat and his corncob pipe resting his chin on the handle of his hoe and gazing across his lush vegetable gardens. One time when John was about ten he asked Uncle George when was doing his gazing “What ya thinking about?” George replied, “How peaceful it is here.”
The farm started to take shape with the building of a farmhouse. Sometime during this process they found time to shovel out a road west one mile to the farm – now called Beach Road. To this day the kids in the family hear all kinds of funny stories about those early days. Grandpa and Uncle Mike were working hard on the farm and the farm was working on them. All this continued until the farm was somewhat complete and they started up a small time mink operation called Midwest Furriers.
After the war the four brothers came home with memories that would forever change their lives. They lost their mother as well as many of their childhood friends. Uncle Mike had it the worst. He suffered many sleepless nights and would eventually be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The family doctor told Grandpa that he would keep an exam room open any time Uncle Mike needed him. “Just bring him in”, is what the doc said.
That’s when Grandpa bought the farm land. Maybe he thought that if he could keep Uncle Mike busy and surrounded him with family he could somehow work through it all.
Image Credit: A cavalry weapons troop moves from the beach past splintered trees and fires caused by the heavy bombardment preceding their landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Creative Commons 2.0 Generic from otisarchives2 photostream.
World War II took four of the five Balen brothers to battles in Europe and Japan. Mike’s company took him to Leyte and Okinawa, Nick was at the Battle of the Bulge, John was in Australia and Matt was going to be sent to Normandy. However, the sudden death of their mother prevented Matt from accompanying his unit to Normandy and was allowed home for the funeral. Over the years the war took its toll. Battlefields and service in all branches took the lives of other family members and future brother-in-laws.
When World War II broke out and the draft started to take the boys from Lake County the Balen Family was hit pretty hard. They were a large family of nine children, five boys and four girls. Four of the brothers; Mike, Nick, John and Matt were drafted to serve their country in Europe and Japan. The eldest son Steve was the only one not drafted. Maybe because he needed to stay and care for his infant daughter, or maybe because his Dad told his friend at the induction center that if he took his last son he’d be back for a not so friendly visit. Either way, somehow Steve’s draft notice never came.