The true hero we found in my family tree on Veterans Day

Within the cigar box were several small boxes. Interesting to note; the Nazi uniform items on the left, were packaged separately from the box containing Raymond Snapkoski's ribbons, dog tags and his 100th Infantry and Sons of Bitche membership cards. Also, at the top of the photo was a pocket sized copy of his DD214. Photo credit Phil Briggs

It started as a simple Facebook post, but after some research, it became one of the best Veterans Day moments I’ve ever had.

My wife’s family knew their grandfather as “Poppy” but during World War II he was known as Technical Sgt. Raymond Snapkoski. He served in the 100th Infantry and the history of his division is nothing short of epic.

In a neatly packed box, my father-in-law John “Snap” Snapkoski (USMC vet, hooyah!) and I spent hours admiring the maps, medals and memorabilia Poppy brought home from the war, including Nazi uniform items and a .22 cal rifle with a German insignia branded on the stock. How Poppy came to own them is unknown, but according to his membership cards he was a real “Son of Bitche.”

Marine Corps veteran John Snapkoski looks at several of his father's maps, which showed the movements and crucial battles fought by Allied Forces in France. Photo credit Phil Briggs

In October-November of 1944, his division arrived in France and began a push into German-held positions. They conducted operations that would break German strongholds, held off counter-offensives for days and eventually helped Allied Forces achieve victory amidst hellish conditions.

Treasure chest: The cigar box filled with medals and mementos from Raymond Snapkoski's service during WWII. Interesting to note; how carefully each was packaged, the Technical Sergeant uniform patches, the red Nazi arm band and a copy of The Bible with an American Flag on the cover. Photo credit Phil Briggs

From a booklet he had packed inside an old cigar box, their story came alive.

“The division began the relief of the 45th Infantry at Baccarat on 5 November. The attack jumped off on 12 November, and the division drove against the German Winter Line in the Vosges Mountains. The 100th took Bertrichamps and Clairupt, pierced the German line, and seized Raon-l'Étape and Saint-Blaise-Moyenmoutier.”

History books revealed even more details about how incredible these men were.

Awe inspiring: A closer look at medals awarded to Technical Sergeant Raymond "Poppy" Snapkoski Photo credit Phil Briggs

“In December 1944, the division went on the offensive in the vicinity of Bitche, France. The division then advanced to Reyersviller, which fell after fighting on 11–13 December …

Fort Freundenburg was captured on 17 December and Fort Schiesseck fell after three more days of heavy assault by the 100th on 20 December …

The division was ordered to halt its attack and to hold defensive positions south of Bitche as part of the Seventh Army during the Battle of the Bulge. Thanks to a stout defense, the men of the 100th later became known as the "Sons of Bitche.”

Phil Briggs, Navy veteran and CBS Eye on Veterans host and his Father-In-Law, John Snapkoski, USMC veteran hold the rifle that "Poppy" brought back from the war. Photo credit Phil Briggs

The German counter attacks of 1 and 8–10 January 1945 were repulsed, after heavy fighting at Bitche.

After further attacks stalled and the Germans began to withdraw, the sector was generally quiet, and the division prepared to resume its offensive east.”

A feeling of awe comes over you when holding WWII and Germany campaign medals. Touching items taken from the fallen enemy filled us with pride and left us wondering what sacrifices were made for us to hold them today.

History in the palm of your hand: This small booklet contained hundreds of fascinating details about the 100th Infantry's gallant effort to liberate France. Photo credit Phil Briggs

Though Poppy never spoke about the war to my father-in-law, knowing our family tree is rooted in a great man like Poppy, makes me especially proud to be an American … and another generation of United States military veterans.

Wedding photo of Raymond and Rachel Snapkoski who are fondly remembered by their grandchildren as "Poppy and Nana." Photo credit Phil Briggs

Thank you TSgt Raymond “Poppy” Snapkoski. I hope my generation’s military service honors your memory, and the way our families are raising your great-grandchildren would make you proud.

Reach CBS Eye on Veterans host Phil Briggs at

Featured Image Photo Credit: Phil Briggs