Medal of Honor Recipients have been revered and admired for years because of their dedication to protecting their fellow man, selfless service to protect our freedoms, and living a life that embodies the six core values of the Medal of Honor: courage, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, citizenship, and patriotism.
While many admire these humble heroes from afar, some know them as dear loved ones. This is the case for Heidi Schonland Reid. Here’s her story.
I have had the unique privilege of getting to know Medal of Honor Recipients at a personal level: My two Grandfathers – Charles MacGillivary and Herbert Schonland. They were both Recipients of this honor as a result of their bravery, loyalty and honor to this country. My parents (Rod Schonland, a decorated Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and my mother Ann MacGillivary Schonland – deceased in 2000) met at a Medal of Honor convention in 1969 in Florida. Although both of my grandfathers are worthy of the title hero, I knew them as Popa and Grandfather.
The most important lesson they both taught me was to honor a Veteran and their entire story. My paternal grandfather, Herb Schonland, passed away when I had just turned 5 years old. Most know this man from his courageous acts in the Navy when he stopped the USS San Francisco from sinking at the Battle of the Guadalcanal in 1942. I remember him as the man who would laugh when I would poke, tickle or pull his hair from the back of the station wagon. He would just laugh, smile, and tell me to be mindful of others. As I learn about what he did to save the ship, it brings me to those moments in the station wagon because I know he was the type of man to think, plan and respond quickly with patience and the right intent. Our youngest child, Cooper, has two middle names and one of them is Herbert.
I was very close with Popa, Charlie MacGillivary. He passed away in 2000 and there isn’t a day I do not think of him. Our daughter, Charlotte aka ‘Charlie,’ is named for him. My memories are filled with decorating graves, attending parades and speeches, but even more so spending all our summers and holidays at his and my Nana’s house. I hold fond memories of watching him, with just one hand, handle nine grandchildren in their pool, sing songs to us, as well as cook for the entire family. I still can’t eat lobster today without the visual of Popa breaking a lobster down etched in my mind.
He was the man who lost his arm in the Battle of the Bulge saving his men and risking his own life. Popa was a fiercely loyal, respectful man who would always strongly state that he was not a hero, but the soldiers that did not come back and those that continue to fight are the real heroes. It was Popa’s mission to ensure that a soldier would never be forgotten – reminding us that a soldier has a whole story and life, not just in the moment or at battle. This passion and his notoriety often had him working with and challenging political figures for what he believed was right, in both military and civilian life.
I strongly believe my work ethic, loyalty, and respect were taught to me because of these men and my parents. My husband John, a school administrator and history teacher, and I make sure Charlie and Cooper know their namesakes stories. But we also make sure they know the equally important stories of their paternal great-grandfather’s, my dad’s, my stepmother’s father, and every other soldier’s story out there that Popa and Grandfather would have wanted them to know because we cannot forget the sacrifice these people, and their families, make to protect us.
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