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Daughter honors grandfather’s heroic service with the help of local Marine

By 1st Lt. Caleb D. Eames | | July 10, 2009

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On Independence Day, a local family was surprised to discover something about their freedom that they never knew.

In August 2008, Alex J. Bardwell passed away, having never talked about his military past.  His granddaughter, Pamela Daniels, decided to research his past to find out everything she could.  Her search took her almost a year to complete.

The more Daniels discovered about her grandfather, the more she came to realize what an amazing record of military service he had. Although he never talked about it to his children or grandchildren, Bardwell, a former staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, served from 1942 to 1955, and saw some of the fiercest combat of World War II and the Korean War.

She uncovered that he saw action in the South Pacific, including the battle for New Georgia and other islands in the Solomon chain, and battles for the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa.  He also fought in Korea during the battles for Incheon and Seoul, and was a survivor of the battle of the Chosin Reservoir.  He served in the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions and his record lists assignments including the occupation of China and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Daniels was sure that her mother, Patricia Holt, Bardwell’s daughter, also knew nothing of her father’s service to country.  So she called a gathering of the family on July 4th, without telling any of them exactly why.

Daniels decided to surprise her mother and the entire family on this Independence Day with the unveiling of a large memorial frame showcasing Bardwell’s many awards, along with a history book, all in honor of her grandfather’s service to his country. 

Staff Sgt. Nelson Hammer, a Marine assigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., accepted an invitation from Daniels to do the surprise presentation. 

“It means so much to have an active-duty Marine present this,” Daniels said.  “I have tears in my eyes just seeing this uniform that my grandfather loved.”

Hammer, the same rank that Bardwell once was, wore full dress blues in honor of Bardwell’s service to country. 

“I’m very honored to do this,” Hammer said.  “I love the Marine Corps, and I know this gentleman did too. Once a Marine always a Marine, Semper Fidelis.”

The entire family watched in awe as Hammer unveiled and presented the memorial frame to Bardwell’s daughter, Holt and the entire family. 

“Back in Paw-Paw’s time, they didn’t talk about this,” Daniels said. “It was hell they went through.  They couldn’t vocalize it because it was like reliving it.  But at the same time I wish I knew about this stuff because it makes a lot of sense now why he was they way he was.  I’m so sad he’s not here to see this in person, but I know he’s here in spirit.”

This Independence Day, the gathered family members discovered something new about their grandfather.  Not only was he a wonderful person who liked ice cream on Father’s Day, but he had also been willing to sacrifice his life for his country.

“I’m so proud of him,” Daniels said.  “I wanted Mama and everyone to see this to have a better understanding of what he did and what he went through.”

Their beloved grandfather was one of the reasons why they could celebrate Independence Day in freedom and security.  ‘Paw-Paw,’ without ever talking about it, was a true American hero.


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