Last year on Memorial Day, we gathered with friends to potluck. At one point, the host asked us to share in the group what significance this holiday held for us. I shared that my grandfather, Ken Logan, flew missions in the South Pacific, that he was brave and survived to raise a family while many of his buddies died in combat.
As I stood there sharing about my own grandfather, it occurred to me that our family history would actually be very different if it weren’t for the man that grandma married before Ken. A man that we had only just learned about when her memoir was published in 2013. Memorial Day suddenly began to take on a whole new meaning for me.
Milton Floan (1919 – 1942)
M/Sgt Floan died Dec 30, 1942 while in the Air Force working as an Aerial Engineer at Columbia Army Air Base in South Carolina. He was a member of airplane crew and accident occurred 1 mile north of base. He was married to Iris Helen Solberg and was 23yrs, 11mos and 16days old. *
From the memoir of my grandmother, Iris Helen Solberg:
While I was in college I met a young man named Milton Floan. He was just finishing up. He was a good-looking fellow and turned out to be a nice, nice guy. We walked downtown to the movies and went on a few dates. In time, we fell in love. His family lived ten or fifteen miles away from Fargo and we went out there and I met his people. I liked them. They lived in town as opposed to on a farm, but they were about the same background as I was… we kept on dating and then he decided to join the military.
“I was home at my folks place on the farm. We heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and after that, we were just glued to the radio. It was like we were hearing something that wasn’t real. We couldn’t believe it was really happening in our country. we read those things in history books, but America was never supposed to be attacked.”
“Milton Floan asked me to marry him before he left for the service, and so on November 20, 1942 we got married. I was 20 years old. He was quite a letter writer and I kept the letters for a long time… then we began to see the casualty list in the papers.”
“One day I was at work in Cando at the REA office and my boss came in and told me I had a telegram. Milton had been a gunner on a plane and during maneuvers, here in the US, there was a crash on take-off. He had been killed. I was numb. We’d been married only a month… It was an adjustment. I went back up to my job in Cando. I was used to getting a letter every day and I missed that and so many other things. I don’t know how long it was before I felt somewhat normal again. But I’m glad I had work, I think that was good…”
Over 1 million Americans have died in the world wars since the first Revolution, and countless others after battle due to post traumatic stress, and other tragic repercussions. Memorial Day is when we take the time to remember that sacrifice, how our freedom as a nation comes at a cost. As former president Ronald Regan said,
“The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give of ourselves.”
Kenneth Milford Logan (1919 – 2005)
Although Milton’s sacrifice left Iris a young widow, her future was changed by a young musician whom she met through his cousins, her friends. Ken Logan was a gunner with the Air Force and flew 30 bombing missions in the war over Japanese occupied territory in the South Pacific. Once he was discharged in 1945, he moved to California to visit cousins with whom Iris was living and working in the area. Grandma recalled:
“Ken was crazy about music… even as a little kid, if [friends] wanted to go play baseball or something and needed to find Kenny, he could always be found playing the piano.”
They were married in Hollywood in a wedding chapel on February 1, 1947. Ken and Iris had three girls, and finally, a boy. That boy is my Daddy, Scott Logan.
Grandpa Logan passed away on January 14th, 2005, but he lived to see his grandchildren and his first two great-grandchildren. His life and legacy is recorded in pictures and memories as we often talk about his life. He was a loving man, and a talented musician. In fact, played in his own band called Ken Logan and the Pastels – they played in dance halls all through his life, and toward the end at senior centers once a week. He was disappointed to miss the 2005 New Year’s gig due to his failing health, and passed away only two weeks later.
When I sat down with Grandma to recount some of her memories this morning, she remembered that Milt, her first husband, also enjoyed music and played the accordion. She said that if the two men had known each other, they would have gotten along well.
Thank you, Grandpa. Thank you Mr. Floan. Your bravery and sacrifice helped to build our family and many generations to come.