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Remembering those who helped keep us free

(Source: International Brotherhood of Teamsters press release, May 22, 2014)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Throughout its history, the Teamsters’ dedication to America has been indisputable. Members have served their country in far higher numbers than the general populace. They have donned the uniforms of all military service branches with distinction and dignity, and on many occasions have paid the ultimate price for their love of country.

As the U.S. honors its fallen heroes in Memorial Day remembrances across the nation this weekend, this union too wants to take a moment to shine a light on some of its past members who gave their lives while fighting for freedom. And there is one war where more Teamsters by far died in battle than any other – World War II.

Reports from The International Teamster Magazine during the WWII era detailed the union’s grisly toll from that war which resulted in more than 400,000 American deaths overall. But it also painted a picture of real people whose sacrifices affected their families and locals during the two-front war.

Take the story of Clifford Barter and Francis Tyman, both members of Local 829 in Boston. The men, childhood friends, often played together while growing up in Somerville, Mass. They attended the same junior high and were both members of the Somerville High School’s Class of 1934. After graduation, they both went to work for the First National Stores in their hometown and joined the Teamsters.

They even both signed up to join the service in December 1941, right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But in September 1942, both died during heavy fighting at Guadalcanal, the magazine reported. The first Marine Division members were cited for bravery by then-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. “The courage and determination displayed in these operations were of an inspiring order,” the citation read in part. Barter and Tyman were two of 800 Local 829 members who served during that time.

But Boston Teamsters were hardly the only ones who responded to the nation’s call to war. A January 1945 edition of the union magazine reported that seven members of Local 205 in Pittsburgh died during in 18-month period in 1943 and 1944. Their ages ranged from 18 to 33 and their military ranks from private to first lieutenant.

Charles DeRenzo, the local’s secretary-treasurer during that time, said the deaths caused members to redouble their efforts to support the war effort. In correspondence with IBT headquarters, he stated, “We must not let our members of the service down. Let us not wait until they are killed to salute them, but let us salute them now by buying (and holding) more war bonds and giving them all the blood plasma they need. In this way you not only help Teamsters but all service men as well.”

The heaviest casualties of WWII, however, went to Local 843 of Newark, N.J., according to a February 1945 edition of the Teamster magazine. It lost 12 men in action, one in a military accident, and had another missing in action.

These are just a sampling of the dedication Teamsters have shown over the years to this country on battlefields across the globe – but just a sample. Our brothers and sisters have also given their lives for their country in WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is important to remember their stories and others like them. We must never forget.

Friday, May 23, 2014

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