I have no idea what caused my ancestors to leave Kent, England, and board a ship to a new world. But whether it was freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny or just a desire for something better, they were the beginning of a long line of defenders.
Allen Warren, who landed with John Rolf in Virginia, was one of the first to set foot in Virginia, and began a long line of American soldiers. When the Colonies declared independence from Britain, several of my ancestors stepped forward to defend their homes during the Revolutionary War. Those like William Mitchell, Joel Dunavant, Lt. John Warren, Abel Burton and Maj. Leonard Dunavant were all there.
The Dunavant women also served while waiting for their husbands to come home from the various conflicts, continuing to marry men who served.
Later, after joining other pioneers who opened the Carolinas and Tennessee for settlers, new lands were bought, traded and divided between heirs through the years until another great conflict arose. The War Between the States saw Pvt. D. Dunavant, at 18, fighting with the 53rd Tennessee Inf. Div. until he was captured and finished the war in a Union POW camp.
Defenders continued to appear when called - like Robert D. Dunavant and Roy Dunavant, who wore their country’s uniform in the deserts of Africa and the fields of Europe. They came home with a chest full of ribbons and scars they would wear the rest of their lives.
When America became embroiled in the Vietnam conflict, James W. Harrington survived three tours of duty before returning home for good.
In the ensuing years the tradition would continue with Dan, Terry and Steve Goin. Robert G., Don and John Dunavant all wore the uniform from the jungles of Panama to the mountains and forests of Germany to the Korean peninsula.
Then the first female family member put on a uniform. MSgt. Janie Blaney walked through the sands of southwest Asia during the Gulf War in 1990. While serving in Oman, her son Jeff Reingold was already learning to wear the uniform for his stints in the Middle East.
The next generation of Dunavants has not yet been called, but be assured that when the call does come, they will step proudly forward to bear the burden.
Janie C. Blaney, MSgt, U.S. Air Force (ret.)