My mother’s mother was a Wooten, which is a name that comes from Woden, which comes from Odin. My mother’s father was a Radmore, seen below in gallant attire, and in fatigues, looking fatigued, during his days as a WW1 tanker. The Radmore family ended up in Canada after they fled America to avoid being tarred and feathered, for being staunch British loyalists.
The Jongema family came from Holland to escape conditions after WW2. My grandfather told me that he “hid under the floorboards while the Nazis searched for our family in the church.” His father moved him and their family to the east coast, some settling in the Michigan area. They are seen below, and a picture of my great-great-great grandfather is to the lower right.
The Jongema coat of arms (left) was established perhaps, in 970AD, though Frisian history is heavily contested and riddled with allegations of forgeries. Juw Juwinga was the last chief of the Frisian people before they were sold out by the Germans, consumed by infighting, and lost in battle against the Dutch. All the while, the effects of the Carolingian dynasty meant the last free barbarians and the most egalitarian society would become complacent farmers. The name Juwinga and the name Jongema are said by some to be synonymous. This creates a mystery that I could only uncover through direct investigation, so I left the safety of Canada at the age of 25 and enlisted in the US Army as a naturalized citizen. I walked the Path of the Warrior, and was a top soldier in training. I received a coin for my efforts from Major General Milano of Ft. Jackson, seen left of myself and my father. It felt pretty good to shake hands with Bob Delaney after getting back from my deployment to Kuwait and Iraq. To find out who my family was, and to regain our legacy, I had to visit Friesland and to investigate personally. So one day I got a pretty neat idea, which I ruminated on like a fine wine…I would volunteer for a deployment, take R&R in the Netherlands, and finally succeed at single-handedly taking over Ft. St. Peter in Maastricht, Nederland…
In February of 2012, I launched my true ambitions for the location of my R&R, and ultimately, my reason for enlisting in the Army and volunteering for a deployment with the first unit that would take me. Upon making landfall in Maastricht, 6 days after my arrival in Amsterdam, I went to work on storming Ft. St. Peter.
Adventure was around every turn it seemed, in Amsterdam, Friesland, and Maastricht. It is hard to put into words how much my trip meant to me, which was captured in these pictures. It was the faces and the culture, the art and the symbolism, the food and the activities, the history and the friendships. Best of all, I found a great aunt, who by chance had inquired about my family name with the curator of the church in Raerd. I found my new baby niece, a new place like home, like a dream but wide awake. It began with a bus trip to Kuwait Airport, and ended back at Amsterdam Airport again for the second time.
My R&R behind me, I flew back to Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, where more adventures awaited me. I wish I could say the food was great, but at least the military makes a show of things for comfort sake, with holiday meals and regular concerts for the troops. I tore my groin, broke a rib, and stretched a tendon- one major injury for every 3 months I was there. However, I drove across Iraq, and I flew home with my unit. I was awarded an Army Achievement Medal for my efforts, and I returned home, to fight another day.