Zachary Smith

Shining American Traits Displayed by My Family

As you may agree, American culture is a melting pot of diversity, and today I wanted to inform you all not of the culture itself, but the traits of Courage, Sacrifice, and Protection displayed by Americans, specifically veterans in my family who have displayed said traits. My family lineage has individuals from every generation that have fought in every war dating back to the Revolutionary War in America. With that being said, I wanted to focus on the three members I found the most interesting, who fought in the Civil War, World War 1, and World War II. A few great quotes that many may feel summarizing these traits are as follows:

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill

“We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” –George Orwell

“I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism and the heart of America.” –Bob Riley

The first ancestor I would like to focus on is Van Buren Smith, my fifth Great Grandfather. He was born in 1834 and died in 1938. Van Buren Smith served as a General in the Confederate Forces and after the war became one of the original Texas Rangers. Van Buren engaged in many battles during the war but swore an oath after to protect the citizens of Texas regardless of what race, social status, or gender they were. Van Buren lived to be 103 years old and died at his daughters homestead peacefully.

Van Buren Smith, Male, Bottom Right.

Newspaper Article over Van

The next ancestor I would like to focus on is my Great Uncle Buck C. Catchings-Smith. He was born on July 4th, 1895 and died on January 17th, 1978. Buck served as a Private First Class overseas during World War I. Buck displayed resilience in the face of adversity in many crucial battles in France during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. According to the United States Military Archives, “The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest operations of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I, with over a million American soldiers participating. It was also the deadliest campaign in American history, resulting in over 26,000 soldiers being killed in action (KIA) and over 120,000 total casualties.” (Government Archives, April 4th, 2023). I ask you all to imagine the fear he had to overcome at just 23 years old going into battle to protect his family back home in the United States and his brothers alongside him.

Buck Catchings (far left)

Buck Catchings at Basic

The last ancestor I would like to focus on is my Great Grandfather Henry “Nicholas” Smith. He served overseas in World War II in Africa, Normandy, and Rhineland Central Europe. The nickname “Nicholas” was derived from “Nicolaos” which translates to “people of victory”. This was given to him by citizens his platoon saved while overseas after a battle. He was highly decorated during his time in the military and sacrificed time with his family back home in the United States to help others in need. The sacrifice is shown in a letter sent home to his mother stating that “I wish this war would hurry and I think it will be a long, long time the way it is looking to me.” He also mentioned in the letter “That letter from Pearl sure was a letter, it sounds like the truth to me…she sure did turn out to be nothing.” The letter from Pearl was a letter from his fiancé at the time stating that she could not handle him being gone to war and it was taking a toll on her mentally, so she had to leave him. Below are photos of Henry “Nick” Smith, the letter to his mother, and a photo taken with Pearl before leaving to Europe.

The photos that are shown are a few of the many that he took while on duty overseas in Africa, Normandy, and Rhineland Central Europe.

The top left photo was taken in Africa. The photos of the planes were shot in Normandy. And the rest of the photos shown were taken in Rhineland Central Europe. An amazing piece of American History and culture.

In conclusion, American culture is a melting pot of diversity, but has many unique traits associated with it that are shown by many American people, whether that be protecting the citizens of Texas as a Texas Ranger, running into battle courageously at 23 years old during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or sacrificing what you truly love for the greater good. I ask you all today one final question. Do you display these traits that my ancestors held so dear to their hearts?


Pioneer Rancher Dies at 103 Years, San Antonio Express LXXIII, February 22, 1938, page 2.

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