Our maternal grandfather, John Robertson Branch, was a proud member of the Sons of the American Revolution. His lineage was traceable to early English settlers of Jamestown, Va., and he was proud of a family history of service. As a young man living in New Mexico, he enlisted in the U.S. Army cavalry units led by Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing in pursuit of Pancho Villa after his raids on small border towns of the U.S. When Pershing and his cavalry shipped overseas to France during WWI, our grandfather "Poppie" was with them. During WWII, Poppie again returned to active duty, serving primarily in defense of the West Coast of the U.S., leaving the Army again at the end of the war, at the rank of captain.
Although he had no grandsons, he had four granddaughters who he entertained with tales of his service in the Army. He had an old footlocker filled with musty-smelling reminders of his years in uniform. We always considered it a special treat when we were allowed to play with parts of his uniforms, his hats, boots, spurs and patches. He instilled in each of us a special love of our unique heritage and our country. Three of us served and ultimately retired from three different branches of the military. Judith Dexter Richtsmeier, COL, USA (R), served 29 years as an Army nurse to include a tour in Vietnam, Nancy Jo Dexter Heisterman, LtCol, USAF (R), also served as an Army nurse in Vietnam and later transferred to the USAF Nurse Corps where she completed 20 years of service, and Elsa Branch Thompson, Capt, USN (R), served over 20 years as a naval officer prior to her retirement. The youngest granddaughter, Janet Dexter Pingree, married a career U.S. Army officer, serving as a loyal, supportive spouse.
Although Poppie never lived to see the full length and scope of our service, we feel certain that he has always looked down with pride from above at the legacy he inspired! As for us, WE were proud and honored to serve.