Friday, May 25, 2007

War: Politically Incorrect

In honor of Memorial Day weekend, the genealogy site Ancestry.com has released military records for free. I tried to look up my ancestors when the slave data was added a few months ago, but couldn't find my family. I was surprised, since my family has been here for a very long time and my grandmother has been engaged in genealogy research offline for at least ten years.

I was curious to see whether the military records would be more accurate, so I looked up my uncle, who was killed in Vietnam long before I was born. He was easy to find. My dad never talks about this stuff, much like my maternal grandfather won't talk about his war experiences. It's weird to realize that on some level, I don't know much about the people who contributed to my DNA. It's like being half-adopted.

In any case, I learned that my uncle was 23 when he was killed, by gunshot or small arms fire. At the time, he was married to my favorite aunt--with whom I share my birthday--and had a baby daughter. He had been in the military for only a year and he was a sergeant in the Army. I can only imagine how his death must have devastated my family. He was the oldest child, and my aunt was left to raise my cousin on her own.

So what is politically incorrect, aside from the fact that the Vietnam war was an unfortunate waste of human life? Apparently the military, despite its vast banks of computer records, doesn't update them to reflect changes in racial descriptions. So my uncle is listed as "Negro".

No comments: