This year, when Americans gather for Veterans Day to honor those who have risked everything for their country, it will mark exactly 100 years from the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that marked the end of fighting in World War I. The date is enshrined as the day the country marks the sacrifice of all its veterans for every year to come.

When the Henderson County Board of Commissioners paused to acknowledge the upcoming date at is meeting Nov. 5, County Manager Steve Wyatt asked Commissioner Bill Lapsley to share a bit about his remarkable connection to the Great War, a conflict that birthed Veterans Day and the outcome of which shaped the United States of today.

Lapsley, showing a framed photo and medals at the commissioners' dais, gave a brief recap of the incredible story he uncovered about his great-grandfather, Claud Lapsley, a marine engineer who made more than 800 trips across the Atlantic on steam ships in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

One of those trips included ferrying famed U.S. Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing across the Atlantic and into Britain. On another trip in July 1918, Lapsley's ship Justicia was sunk by torpedoes fired from a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland.

Lapsley would go on to be awarded the Order of the British Empire and Distinguished Service Cross for his service, though that only scratches the surface of his extraordinary tale.

Bill Lapsley did not hear about his great-grandfather growing up. It was only after his father died in 1998 that, while on a trip to Florida to visit his mother, she presented him with some of his father's things and the box with the photos, medals and other information in it.

"All of a sudden, I start finding pictures of this guy," he said. His mother didn't know the details, but only that those photos were of Bill Lapsley's father's grandfather.

That find sparked a journey of discovery that uncovered the incredible details of Claud Lapsley's life.

He was born in 1853 in Liverpool. His father, as ancestors even further back had been, was involved with sailing vessels that have long left port at Liverpool to travel around the world.

By age 12, Lapsley was at sea on sailing vessels, and in 1870 when he was 17, he became an apprentice to Finnieson Engine Works in Glasgow, Scotland, the world hub for locomotives at the time. He learned the ins and outs of the big engines he would tend for the rest of his career.

In 1880, at age 27, he started work in the engine rooms of those big steam ships, 18 of which he would eventually work on. At 50 years old in 1903, he became the chief engineer of the White Star Line, the largest at the time, which traveled across the Atlantic between England, Canada, Boston and New York, the line of the Titanic.

Those trips would take anywhere from 12 to 14 days, trips Lapsley made at least twice a month for more than 30 years.

When the U.S. got involved in World War I, the British government offered to carry American troops across the Atlantic, Bill Lapsley said, and his great-grandfather switched from carrying American tourists to American soldiers.

One of those ships was the Baltic, which carried Pershing, and another was the Justicia, which was sunk. After the war, Lapsley was honored with the Order of the British Empire and Distinguished Service Cross, but even then, he wasn't done with either ships or world wars.

After semi-retiring in 1924, he was sent to Genoa, Italy by White Star Line where he was the shore superintendent, keeping track of the company's ships carrying tourists to Italy from England.

At that time, Lapsley's business card said "consulting engineer," the same as great-grandson Bill Lapsley's during his career.

Claud was still in Genoa when he died in 1940 at 87. When his family asked the Italian government to send the body back to England, it refused, having allied itself with Germany against the UK, Bill Lapsley said. Claud was buried in Genoa with a request to be wrapped in the British flag.

It's an amazing family story that Bill Lapsley had to uncover on his own, and one that helped instill in him the significance of remembering stories like Claud's.

Bill Lapsley's father immigrated to the United States as a young child, brought here with his brother and mother from Liverpool, England to Los Angeles in 1926 by Bill Lapsley's grandfather, who was never too close with his father, who was always at sea.

Lapsley said no one in the family knows why his grandfather left his job as a ship's captain and loaded up the family of four on one of the ships engineered by Claud Lapsley. He brought them to New York and then to Los Angeles, but it must have been quite the trip.

"I can't imagine a family of four people traveling with all their worldly possessions in probably four or five suitcases traveling halfway around the world and starting a new life in California," he said. "That just boggles my mind."

That history was uncovered by Lapsley before easily accessible research tools like www.ancestry.com were around. His quest took hours and hours of research, as well as wiring money to retired librarians in London and Glasgow.

Now, as he looks back at the story he's uncovered on Veterans Day weekend, he thinks about the significance of what people like his great-grandfather did, and the importance of their descendants to remember the sacrifices they made for their freedom and way of life.

He's gone on to do just as much research about his wife's family, and the importance of those histories was reaffirmed in 2001, when his son came down with a medical conditions doctors feared may be genetic. That sent him diving into family records for a new reason.

"It's easy in our fast-paced life that all of us have to forget or ignore where we came from," Lapsley said. "It's important for us, the descendants, to make sure that we document what our ancestors did and what trials and tribulations and life experiences they had and to pass that on to our family members so that they don’t forget where they came from and always appreciate what their ancestors did to give them a life in this world."