GILES COUNTY, Va. – It’s a rarity for family members to serve in the military at the same time, but even more uncommon to all be sent off to war. For one New River Valley family, that became a reality when six brothers fought during World War II or the Korean War.
Named after their small neighborhood in Giles County, today the brothers are still known as the Maybrook Men.
During World War II, more than 16 million U.S. troops were sent into conflict. The war touched every American in some way. For the Atkins family, it was in more ways than one.
Five of the Atkins brothers were all called into service in World War II: Warren (June) L. Atkins Jr., Harry B. Atkins, John Edward Atkins, Curtis L. Atkins and David Atkins, who served as a Tank commander with General Patton.
The war took these then small town Giles County boys all over the world. In 1951, the youngest brother, Billy R. Atkins, would serve in the Korean war. The only two brothers still living are John Atkins, 96, of Christiansburg, and June Atkins, 100, of Maybrook. The two brothers sat down with 10 News to tell their war stories that are still vivid in their minds.
“I was 19-years-old when I was in the army. Stayed 3 years. 22 months overseas,” June said. He was the first to be drafted in 1942. “I did Italy, France, Algiers, North Africa, Casablanca. I was all over Europe,” June said.
John Atkins was drafted soon after. After training in the U.S. and being sent to multiple states while serving in the military police, he chartered a boat to France.
“We were going to put up a hospital and we didn’t finish it, because Germany surrendered,” John said.
The war then took him through the Mediterranean sea, the Panama Canal, the Philippines and to Japan.
“That’s my journey,” John said. They’ve lived a lifetime of stories in just a few short years of their youth, and despite the time that has passed, can still recall many of the details, including how their mother worried for all her boys.
“I guess she worried over us. Bound to with all them boys over there. You don’t know what time you’ll get a telegram if one got killed,” June said.
Three of the brothers were wounded in action, but by some miracle, they all returned home. Their youngest brother, Billy Atkins, also came home to Giles after his time in the Korean War in February 1953.
The community still honors the service given by this band of brothers. No matter how many decades have passed, it’s not forgotten.
In recent years the community has dedicated a memorial ride to the Maybrook Men driving by the family homeplace. This year it happened on June’s 100th birthday.
You can watch June’s story below: