Sarah Seippel | May 29, 2023

As the daughter of Will Seippel, a dedicated collector, my father’s passion for history has always been evident. Although I am still learning how to value different items, my dad has taught me that there are occasions when a historically significant object holds a worth that outweighs its monetary value. I have come to appreciate his deep reverence for some of the most simplistic items because of the stories they tell.

For my dad, collecting is not just a hobby; it is his way of preserving history and ensuring that the sacrifices of heroes are never forgotten. Through his carefully preserved letters, medals, and artifacts, he uses his collections as educational tools for others while guaranteeing the items’ stories endure for generations. Some items are widely recognized and known in his collection, while others are intriguing curiosities inciting questions about their origins.

World War II Navy military memorabilia pin
This World War II United States Navy pin features a small anchor joined by a chain to a miniature flag.
Image Courtesy: Sarah Seippel

Unlocking the Secrets

One intriguing item that my dad recently stumbled upon and showed me was a naval pin that was a curiosity to him. At first, I wondered why he was curious about it. But in his mind, the pin provoked multiple questions, such as:

During World War II, military personnel commonly sent pins as tokens of affection to their family members and sweethearts back home. These pins served as sentimental keepsakes and reminders of the love and connection between service members and their loved ones.

The pins World War II personnel bought could vary in design and significance. Some pins may have included official military insignias representing the branch or unit to which a service member belonged. Other pins might contain personalized patriotic motifs, initials, or messages.

In an era before instant communication and digital technologies, sending pins and letters allowed service members to communicate with their families. It was a tangible way to stay connected during a time of separation; however, based on the like-new condition of this pin, it is likely it never made its way to its intended sweetheart. Numerous unanswered questions surround this curiosity.

Preserving the Legacy

Although my father hates war, he deeply respects those who have served and the items symbolizing those who have never made it home. According to him, military families foster close bonds with one another because they all understand the uncertainty surrounding the whereabouts and safety of their loved ones. Additionally, military families possess a unique knowledge of the devastating experience when their loved ones do not return home or come back mentally or physically disabled. If one’s memorabilia, such as the naval pin, was discarded, we might risk losing the memories of brave men and women forever.

Memorial Day: Remembering the Sacrifice

For military families, Memorial Day is a time to remember and celebrate their loved ones who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is a day to honor their bravery and dedication while helping their country, allowing many to reflect on the cost of freedom.

Militaria memorabilia items, such as patches and badges, war souvenirs, and personal items, provide a tangible means of expressing remembrance for those who have given their lives. But, as someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a loved one in the armed forces, I wondered why individuals choose to hold onto the keepsakes of their departed family members.

Seeking an understanding of this, I turned to my dad for insight. He told me a story about his past relative, whose beloved was a pilot during World War II. He made the ultimate sacrifice to defend his country’s freedom, but his memory lived on in her heart. She cherished his memory throughout her life by keeping his photograph on her nightstand until her final days. Although the picture held no monetary worth, it symbolized a love story of immeasurable value.

Uncovering More Untold Stories

Ultimately, keeping military memorabilia after a family member dies in service is a deeply personal choice, and these items often support our understanding of the past. With the origins of Memorial Day tracing back to the conclusion of the American Civil War, communities began to honor and remember the fallen soldiers by preserving their memories. These artifacts, such as uniforms and letters, provided a glimpse into the experiences and challenges during difficult times.

Being my father’s daughter, it is no surprise that I share his affection for the realm of paper and ephemera. As I researched the topic of militaria memorabilia, I came across numerous forms of correspondence exchanged between soldiers and their sweethearts. One particular item caught my eye: a bundle of these Civil War letters exchanged between a man named William Kennedy and his future wife, Olive DeEtte Dayton.

As I explored their story, I learned that William found himself in a state of uncertainty regarding his regimental assignment. Uncertain of his future, he asked for Olive’s parents to solidify the union between him and Olive. Another point I have to wonder: what happened to these people? Did William come home? Was Olive faithful to him? Although these questions are likely to remain unanswered forever, these letters serve as a primary source of historical documentation. More importantly, they establish a physical connection to the hardships and sacrifices made by those who served in the military.

Honoring the Fallen

Whether your chosen way of commemorating Memorial Day involves decorating a veteran’s grave with flowers and flags or joining a ceremonial remembrance event, let us keep in mind that this occasion is a time of remembrance. It shows us that our freedom is not without a significant cost, and this holiday is a way to safeguard the legacies of fallen service members for generations to come.

Sarah Seippel is a freelance writer and finds much of her inspiration in her father’s unique collections. In her free time, she enjoys hunting down the best cup of coffee and pursuing for vintage deals.