Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
Veterans Day is a one of my favorite days. Matter of fact, I think we should celebrate our war heroes every day. But, this is the one day a year that our country takes stock of the freedoms we have and gives thanks for the sacrifices made by a noble few for the rest of us. For one family on our district, Veterans Day is in fact – every day. If you looked up the word patriot in the dictionary, you would most likely find a photo of the Ripkowski brothers.
The lives of all twelve brothers form a company of heroes that served in our military in various branches spanning from World War II to the Korean War. Most of them served during a time of war and all of them returned home. Their family story began in the small town of Dayton, Texas in the 1930s. Their parents, Stash and Mattie Ripkowski, had twelve sons and four daughters: Felix, August, Raymond, Bernie, Alex, Leon, Bill, Herman, Franklin, John, Mike, Stanley, Catherine, Virginia, Pearline and Anna Lee.
The Ripkowski family grew corn and cotton on their 200-acre farm. As World War II began, the brothers answered their country’s call of duty to serve in the military one after the other. All twelve of the brothers served in World War II or the Korean War – and they all survived the wars and returned to Texas! Today, only six of the twelve Ripkowski brothers are still living. Alex, the oldest of the surviving brothers, is 91 years old.
All of the brothers, except for one, have spent the rest of their lives after the military in our District in Dayton. Herman decided to move away from his family and settled in Liberty – 5 miles to the east.
What makes the Ripkowski brothers’ story so remarkable is how humble and modest they are in describing their family’s enormous military contribution to our great nation. Their humility is best understood in their own words.
“We did it to serve our country,” said Mike. “We’re just hard-working, good, law-abiding, American people.”
“Thank God we are here and that all of us made it home,” said Herman, when he was asked how he wanted history to describe his brothers and their military service.
“You had to serve your country,” said John. “I enjoyed going to the service and doing my job.”
If you called any one of the Ripkowski brothers a hero, they would probably look over their shoulder to see who you’re speaking to. They believed that their service in the military was their duty as an American citizen. To them it was not performed for heroics or to gain medals, but to answer the honorable call of duty for their beloved country.
“Medals didn’t interest us in the service,” said Franklin Ripkowski. “Our minds were on doing our jobs and doing better every day. We never used the words good enough. Everything was done with precision. We trained people how to be superior, how to operate and not to be scared. Nowadays, a lot of people don’t care or put their heart into it. The military trained you to put your heart into it. I wish every person would go into the military for one year. It would make a better person out of them.”
The Ripkowski brothers’ patriotic legacy of military service is one of the best examples of our greatest generation in American history. They are an eternal example of the service and sacrifice given to protect the freedoms of our nation.
And that’s just the way it is.