News Stories

Third-generation service member keeps family tradition on Veterans Day

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class America Henry Defense Information School


When the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee holds its annual Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, one person is sure to be there: Lee Rogers, 84, who joined the Navy during the Korean War.

Rogers, whose grandfather served in the Spanish-American War and whose father was a veteran of World War I, has been attending such ceremonies since he moved to nearby Hixson in 1988.

“I was and always have been a patriotic person,” he said in a recent email. “I shall be at the national cemetery Wednesday as always and in my dress blues.”

Rogers traces the tradition to his childhood near Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he and other members of his family would place flowers on grave sites on holidays.

For Rogers, Veterans Day is Armistice Day, as it was originally named, because of his father’s service in World War I. The elder Rogers had been exposed to mustard gas in 1918 but lived to 1980 and remained “the veteran forever” to his son.

Several cousins and many friends served in World War II, which ended when Rogers was 14.

Rogers turned 19 in June 1950, the day before the Korean War began, and he enlisted in the Navy soon after. He trained as an electronics technician and served on the auxiliary repair ship USS Briareus (AR-14), operating, maintaining and repairing its electronics, for two years. The fighting in Korea ended with an armistice in July 1953.

“The Korean War years were somewhat unreal to me, having been old enough during all of World War II to see and feel what our citizens felt and talked about all through those years,” Rogers said. “No one seemed to talk about or express patriotic actions during the Korean War unless someone in their family was in the service. Yes, the entire time was ‘The Forgotten War.’”

Near the close of the war, Rogers spent the July 4 weekend at a vacation spot in northeastern Pennsylvania. There, he met Patricia Ann Brennan. They dated for a year and became engaged on Christmas Eve in 1954.

By then, Rogers had joined the submarine service. He learned early 1955 that he would be attending nuclear power school in Idaho.

“I became determined that I would not take a chance by going so far away and possibly lose my gal to some eager guy,” Rogers said.

So, the two eloped to Maryland and then left for Idaho together.

Patricia and Lee Rogers raised two sons and three daughters. One son, Greg Rogers, and one daughter, Diane Rogers Calhoun, are also residents of Hixson.

Calhoun joked that when she was born in a Navy hospital, her bottom was slapped and then stamped USN.

The family moved from duty station to duty station with Rogers until the children were in their teens and he retired.

“When your parent is active-duty military, the whole family is active-duty,” Calhoun said. “It's who you are and what you do.”

As a result, family life and Navy traditions went together.

“From my earliest memory, whenever Dad’s boat was going to sea or returning, it was a major event,” Calhoun said. “The ceremony, the flags, the music … all were to mark the importance and solemnity of the occasion. It was important, and we knew it.

“My parents modeled service to each other, their families, our family, the Navy family and our country,” Calhoun said. “We were, and are, proud to be a Navy family.”

Patricia Rogers died Oct. 5 and is “saving a space for him” at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Lee Rogers said.

During his time in the nuclear submarine force, Rogers served in the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), USS Swordfish (SSN 579), USS Sculpin (SSN 590), USS Skate (SSN 578) and USS Tinosa (SSN 606). He also served as a nuclear power school instructor.

Rogers was advanced to chief electronic technician (submarine specialist) in May 1963 and to senior chief electronics technician (submarine specialist) in May 1968. He was released to the Fleet Reserve in 1970 and fully retired in 1980.

A life member of the United States Submarine Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans, he volunteers regularly and participates in ceremonies with those groups.

At the ending of each ceremony, when salutes are rendered with rifle shots and taps is played, he often feels emotional, Rogers said. At such times, he thinks about family members, shipmates and others who have served.

“That is usually the hardest emotional period for me,” he said