Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Gift of a Lifetime

1954 Lincoln Capri superimposed over VA Form 350

Why would a teenage U.S. Army inductee in 1949 buy life insurance?  This is exactly what 17-year-old Philip Hughes did in November of that year. He accepted the Veterans Administration's standard life insurance policy offered to all new recruits. By signing his name to the VA Form 350, Philip agreed that a premium of $6.15 would be withheld from his $70 gross monthly pay. The policy's redemption value was $10,000. His adoptive mother, Wilhelmina, was the beneficiary.

The U.S. Army instituted the National Service Life Insurance program in 1940, anticipating the onset of what would be World War II. This insurance product would be accepted by millions of men during the ensuing war years.  The same basic insurance deal was offered to post-war enlistees.  Hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries still receive policy payouts to this day.

As fate would have it, PVT Philip Hughes would become engaged as a rifleman in the opening weeks of the Korean War.  While serving in that capacity, he was killed in action on September 12, 1950.

Philip and his younger brother Frank had been adopted by Wilhelmina. She indended for both boys to become priests. Neither boy wished to comply. Philip's resistance precipitated his Army enlistment. His death forced her to reconsider her motherly role. She essentially diverted Philip's life insurance proceeds so that they accrued to Frank's benefit. In short, she was making amends for the family dysfunctions of her own making. This story is shared in The Battle of Turkey Thicket.  

Ten thousand dollars went a long way in the early 1950s. Wilhelmina saw to it that Frank received a car upon his high school graduation.  She encouraged Frank to travel the country on his own - in effect, allowing him to "find" himself.  Frank would criss-cross the U.S. for two years, wearing out two cars while covering all 48 states. He made connections that jump-started his academic career, and his ensuing pursuits as an executive. It all began with the payout of Philip's life insurance policy.     

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