Story of the Month – Robert Lee Phillips

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Story of the Month – Robert Lee Phillips

By Linda Stookey


Robert Lee Phillips was born June 9, 1932 to Vernon Hickman & Tessie Jane (smith) Phillips of Salem, Missouri.

He was the youngest out of 11 Children. None of the children attended schools, as they were needed at home rather than learning and reading books. None of them knew how to read or write. Uncle Bob grew up hard but fast, learning a life of poverty.  When his country called, he did not hesitate like many others.  He joined the military to defend our country.

I never met my Uncle.  In fact, he died 10 years prior to myself being born.  However, something burned deep inside of my veins to find him. I did not believe he died while growing up. I asked questions to my family but was told not to talk about it.

When I became a young adult, instead of asking, I started hunting, hunting for questions in their hometown. No one knew where any of them were buried.  All I could remember from my grandmother’s funeral was a little white Baptist church in the background.  I went on the hunt each and every little graveyard I could find, but had disappointing results.  As I was heading out of town disappointed, I drove by a graveyard.  I noticed the name Smith appeared on several gravestones.  I turned into the church and to the gravestones. As I was walking and about to give up, I turned out onto a two-lane road.  Something inside of me told me to look back.   When I did, I saw a headstone that had Phillips written on it and was exactly positioned as I recalled of the little white Baptist church. I stopped, backed up and turned into a gravel road where I not only found my grandparents, but my uncles, aunts, cousins and so on in a little town of Licking, Missouri.

I contacted the Army.  I also sent paperwork, information, items I had no idea about any of it. I also spent hours at our local library, at nights, online searching when information was not as easily accessed years ago.  I also conducted research at a new national record archives built by my home because the old one had burned. I requested and obtained his medical folder. What was left of it, smelled of smoke, however, was gold.

Based on my research, my uncle stationed in Junction City, Kansas where he played football with some buddies and hurt his knee prior to his deployment to Korea. He was sent to several hospitals ending up in Michigan where he had a full knee replacement. Released and shipped out to Korea.  My uncle, Robert Lee Phillips, was declared missing in action a few months later as his whereabouts were unknown, and declared killed in action.

Even to this date, the whereabouts of him remains unknown. It is called a Forgotten War, however, I ask and beg to all of you, please, do not forget the sacrifices they paid with their lives.