Reunion connects local residents with family members they never knew they had

REED CITY — Some family trees are complete, while others are missing several branches.

For the Millens of Osceola County, their family history was always missing a crucial component – knowledge of their grandfather, who died in combat during World War II.

At the 2014 installment of Tight Lines for Troops, brothers Larry and George Millen fished in honor of the grandfather they never knew, along with their wives, Kelly and Laurie Millen. He was killed in 1944 during World War II and their grandmother refused to speak about him. Following the Tight Lines for Troops event, the grandchildren of George Wellington Millen met relatives they never knew they had and learned a little bit more about their absent grandfather.

“Our grandmother was hesitant when the subject came up,” George said. “There were no definite answers when it came to my grandfather. We didn’t press the issue. If we did ask questions, she was not very responsive, so we would just drop it.”

Larry and Kelly Millen, of Evart, and George and Laurie Millen, of Tustin, were made aware of Tight Lines for Troops through Bonnie Livingston, media relations coordinator. She also happens to be the great-niece of George Wellington Millen and wanted to honor his family as a Gold Star family, which recognizes immediate family members of those who lost their lives in combat. The idea arose to connect Millen’s grandchildren with several surviving Millen relatives the grandchildren had not previously known existed.

George Wellington Millen was originally from Boon and served in World War II for two years to support his brother, with whom he was very close. His wife never came to terms with his service and was left at home to raise five young children. During the war, Millen was involved with preparations leading up to the Battle of the Bulge and died in combat.

“My grandmother had five children to raise. My aunt was only seven months old when he died,” George Millen said. “My dad was three, Larry’s dad was five. They were quite young.”

Their grandmother later remarried and never spoke of her first husband, including his family. Until a month ago, the Millens had no idea their father had two sisters and were excited at the prospect of meeting relatives for the first time at a brunch the day after Tight Lines for Troops.

“It was a really long brunch,” Kelly said. “There was a lot of talking. It was a blast, it was so much fun; it was wonderful.”

At the brunch, the relatives shared family history and got to know each other. While their grandfather was a topic of discussion, the family is still hungry for information about him.

“Even with getting to know more descendants in the family, we still only have a few stories of George Wellington Millen,” Kelly said.

The family also recently found out where their grandfather is buried. After the war, Millen’s body was brought to a military cemetery in Indiana and buried in 1948. The grave site was visited in 2014 by his only surviving child, Lorraine Bailie. The family does not know further information about his time in the service because the building in which those documents were kept burned down.

For his service, Millen was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, which the family has in their possession. They also have his Bible, which they were told was found with his body when it was recovered, and the flag with which he was buried.

Questions still persist about who George Wellington Millen was and family members hope through furthering relationships with their newly-discovered relatives, some of these can be answered.

“All this time we’ve never had a Grandpa Millen and we never knew why,” Larry said. “Grandma never shared anything about Grandpa. Even now, I still have questions as to who he was, what kind of man he was.”

The Millens plan on continuing to get to know each other.

“It was an awesome experience to know we had family on Grandpa George’s side that we never met,” said Larry Millen. “From that, we will be planning a Millen family reunion. Hopefully we will meet even more family members.”