Last night, I found some information that I wasn’t exactly looking for at the time. Let me “go back a spell,” as the old folks used to say, and start this story from the beginning.
Growing up, my Mother would always state proudly that her father, Alsen Jason I, was in WWI; her brother, Alsen Jason II, was in WWII; her other brother, Clifton Jason, was in the Korean War; and her nephew, Alsen Jason III, was in the Vietnam War. She would continue with stories of her other uncles, nephews, and relatives that had also fought in wars. “They were very brave”, she would say, sometimes followed with a sly “I don’t know anybody on your Daddy’s side that fought in the war.”
Now, Mama, don’t go talking about my Daddy and his family, I would think this but, of course, I would never say out loud.
In 2010, my brother-in-law, John, who worked at The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, announced that he would be retiring soon. I used this as an opportunity to finally get documentation on my grandfather’s WWI services so I could present this information to my mother.
I called John up and gave him my grandfather’s information. I eagerly awaited a response from John with the good news. I told my mother that I requested information on her father and, she too, was excited.
A few days later, John had news for me, but it wasn’t good. He told me that he couldn’t find any service record for my grandfather. I was devastated. I had to break this bad news to my mother. She was silent and didn’t say a word.
I know that hurt her. I chalked it up to maybe a name spelling, or a file that was destroyed in the fire or misplaced. I had no idea what to think. I didn’t want to believe the story was untrue. People generally don’t have stories in their family saying a person served when they didn’t, but I had no recourse to find out any information. Over the years, since then, I would occasionally go to military databases and see if I could find my grandfather. I would try different spellings of his name, but to no avail.
Last night, I hit pay dirt – and I wasn’t even looking for that record! As a normal practice, I like to conduct a wildcard searches, just in case I find I record that I haven’t seen before. Familysearch.org is probably my favorite online site to do these types of searches. My grandfather’s name, Alsen Jason, is one that have so many variations – I’ve lost count. Alsen, I’ve seen also written as Alcin, Elcin, and Alsin. Let’s night I did a random search for “Alsin Jas*” and I was hoping to find something new. Right across the page, indeed was something I had not seen before.
The third record on the page listed an “Alcin Jasson” Louisiana Service record! Could it be I had found an entry that proves that my grandfather was indeed in WWI?
I quickly opened the record and saw information I had sought those many years ago. The record was from the Louisiana World War I Services and it listed that my grandfather, Alcin Jasson [Alsen Jason] was, in fact, enlisted in the Army and served in WWI. The record indicates that a 26-year old Alsen was inducted into the Army on June 19,1918 and served overseas starting September 18, 1918 through June 19, 1919. He was honorably discharged July 12, 1919.
“Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917-1920”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2TY-588Y : 8 February 2017), Alcin Jasson, 1918.
You may notice that the person shown on the page right above Alsen, is also a Jason. Austen [Austin] Jason is Alsen’s brother!
I was delighted to find this record. But knowing the hardship that African Americans fared in the services during WWI, I could only imagine the trials he may have encountered.
I contacted, my now retired brother-in-law, John, and gave him the good news. John told me a website where I could request my grandfather’s records online. He also gave me pointers on information I should include in the request. The key, he said, was to make sure that I asked for the complete service and medical records. I’ve sent the request and I can’t wait to get a response.
I have limited experience with the military records, so I’m going to have to do more research in this area. That’s it for now. I will keep all of you updated.