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Military service is traditional in Summers family

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Nov 10, 2018 at 2:00 PM

With Veterans Day upon us, Huron County Sheriff’s Maj. Chuck Summers, administrator of the jail, brought up remembrances of the military service of many of his family members.

Those memories included how he followed their footsteps when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17.

When speaking of his parents' generation — his father and uncles, Summers said “everyone from World War II came home and put all that behind them.”

“They didn't say much about their service, so we never knew all that they went through. They were productive citizens who had families, raised kids and worked hard. My dad and Uncle Doug worked 30 years at General Motors. Uncle Al worked as a railroad engineer until he retired in the 1980s. Several uncles belonged to the Masonic Lodge and became master Masons.”

His father, Charles R. Summers, enlisted the U.S. Army late in WW II, so was sent to Germany where he participated in the Berlin airlift.

Charles' brother, Al Summers, was in the Army (1945-’46), serving in the Philippines and Korea. He received the Good Conduct Medal and Victory Ribbon Army Occupation Medal of Japan, presented to him by the emperor.

Little brother Ralph Summers died young in 1976 of complications from malaria contracted in the Philippines, where he fought with the 42nd Battalion of the Army.

The major's uncle, Carl Gorza, a member of the Army, earned a Bronze Star for the invasion of Okinawa.

Uncle Douglas Franklin of Florence, Ohio, was in the U.S. Air Force. He fought in the Philippines. Summers shared one of the few stories he told him: “One night they thought they were (going to be) overrun in the dark and started shooting. In the morning they found a dead water buffalo in front of their hut.”

On the Daniels’ side, Bob Daniels, of WW II U.S. Army Aviation Battalion, in England, France and Germany, won four Bronze Stars for his service. He died in 2002 at the age of 90.

His younger brother, Richard George Daniels, was in military school of the Army-Air Force as a pilot and gunner during WW II. He then worked at NASA as an operations supervisor to help put a series of 1960 space missions into orbit. A friend of the late John Glenn attended his funeral in 2005. Daniels is buried in the Mason Road cemetery near Axtel, Ohio.

Cousin John A. Daniels was a student at Oberlin College during WWI. He and all his classmates were in the Army, sent to Mississippi on a train and told the next day they would be on another train to New Jersey. However, overnight the war ended and all the students were sent back to Oberlin on the long return-train journey.

Maj. Summers’ cousin in an older generation, John Daniels, was born in 1844. He was a private in the Civil War, Company G, 101st Ohio Infantry. He contracted measles, died in Tennessee in 1863 and is buried in Berlin Heights.

Ancestors of the Summers/Daniels line from Vermont — Thomas Lee and Zebulon Moses — answered the call for independence during the the Revolutionary War.

With all these examples before him, Summers found another role model in his father-in-law, Paul McElhaney, who was in the U.S. Navy from 1958 to 1979. McElhaney retired as the one of the highest ranking Navy enlisted men. For averting an emergency in the nuclear submarine, he received the Navy Achievement Medal.

During Summers’ Marines training to become an jet engine pilot, he was sidetracked after aviation field school. The training tests were going to shunt him to pack parachutes in Lakehurst, N.J. He complained he was a mechanic and subsequently was assigned to be an aviation machinist mate environmental. Summers serviced the air-conditioning systems and ejection seats of Harrier jet fighter planes.

During five years of active duty, he traveled to Okinawa, Philippines, and Guam, keeping Harriers in safe, working condition. In the infantry reserves, Summers said he found himself in “war games played in 10 degrees below zero in a foxhole” and one of his buddies got frost bite.

“There's got to be a better way to make a living,” Summers said about the experience.

He moved on to work part time, then full time as a police officer, after taking a course in the Cuyhoga Community College Police Academy. Summers was the first person in his family to be a policeman.

After a year in the Grafton Police Department and 15 years in Willard, Summers signed on with the railroad. At the same time, he said he was invited by Sheriff Richard Sutherland “to become be (a) special deputy part time.” Summers could keep his training updated as well as his certification, though without pay.

At Sutherland’s retirement, Summers said he became “a full-time administrator here.” He and Sheriff Todd Corbin were both in the same 4th Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment — although in different years. 

Corbin served in Iraq. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest award in the Marines, for saving the lives of several men in his unit while under fire in 2006.

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