Joseph F. Ambrose
Joseph F. Ambrose (May 24, 1896 – May 1, 1988) was an American soldier who was a prominent World War I veteran; his 1982 photo has become a popular symbol of Veterans Day. In this widely viewed and circulated photo, Ambrose was photographed wearing his own World War I US Army 'Doughboy' uniform, helmet, and field equipment while attending the official dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., in November 1982. In addition to wearing his World War I uniform and gear, Ambrose clutched a folded US Flag that had covered the casket of his son Clement A. Ambrose, who was killed in action in the Korean War on February 14, 1951.
Ambrose's World War I US Army uniform jacket as seen in other photographs clearly displays various details of his service including: the US Army 35th Infantry Division ('Santa Fe Division') insignia patch at the left upper shoulder and which is configured to indicate that he belonged to the 140th Infantry (the 140th Infantry roster shows Joseph as a corporal in Company I); the US Army Infantry Branch disc insignia at the right collar; his Identification Tag attached by a cord to a button hole; the WW1 Victory Medal with a service clasp; and an obsolete Army Marksmanship Badge (with a 'Sharpshooter' rating) also at the left breast.
Joseph Francis Ambrose was born May 24, 1896 in Joliet, Will County, Illinois. His father and mother were Austrian, and lived in a community of many German/Austrian immigrants. His father worked at a steel mill until the age of 63. He had one sister, Anna, who lived from 1900–1955.
Ambrose was drafted into the United States Army in 1917. His 1917 World War I draft registration card does not appear[according to whom?] to be filled out (nor signed) in his hand, and it lists his middle initial as "V." At that time, he was a laborer at the "Phoenix Horse Shoe Company."
After the War, in 1920, he lived with his father and sister, and was working as a "Heater" at a "Gas Company." Sometime in the mid 1920s, he married a woman named Marie. Her native language was Croatian, but she also spoke English. She was born in 1904, and immigrated to the US in 1907 from Yugoslavia. They had four sons: Joseph Jr. (1926), Norbert (1927), Clement (1928), and Rolland (1933).
In 1930, Ambrose worked in the tile business and in 1942, on his World War II draft registration card, he listed "E. I. Du Pont Construction" as his employer.
Ambrose's third son Clement A. Ambrose (born June 10, 1928) was serving as a US Army Infantry Sergeant in the US Army's 7th Infantry Regiment, of the 3rd Infantry Division, when he was Killed In Action on February 14, 1951 in the Korean War, at the age of 22. SGT Ambrose is buried in the Saint Johns Cemetery, in Joliet, IL. SGT Ambrose was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. Some sources indicate that Clement Ambrose also reportedly served in the Merchant Marines during WW2, in the Philippines. His gravestone reads: "Our son S/Sgt. Clement A. Ambrose gave his life on the battlefield of Korea."
Death and remembrance
Ambrose's wife, Marie, died in 1980, at the age of 76. He died on May 1, 1988, less than a month before his 92nd birthday. The Joliet Public Library lists his obituary in the 1988 Obituary Index: "Ambrose, Joseph F. Sr. "Doughboy Joe."
Ambrose was posthumously honored in a speech given by Senator Dick Durbin, for Veterans Day, in 2012. Durbin said: "Joseph Ambrose wore his old Army 'doughboy' uniform and carried his son’s flag often to Veterans Day parades and VFW conventions. He confessed that some years he had to go on a crash diet to squeeze back into it. But he did it to honor the veterans of the Korean and the Vietnam wars, wars he believed America was trying then to forget. He wanted to remind us of an important truth: that no matter the outcome of a war, those who answer the call of duty and risk everything to defend America deserve the respect of a grateful nation."
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- "Congress Should Honor Veterans By Passing Bipartisan Legislation To Create Jobs For Veterans And Improve Mental Health Service". United States Senate. Retrieved 12 November 2015.