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To my Grandfather (World War II), my father (Vietnam), my great-uncles, and all those who served and serve our country, we honor and thank you.

I’d like to take a moment to share about a man who fought for our country in WWII, my grandfather.  I don’t know many stories about his time in the war, simply because he didn’t enjoy talking about them.  As a child I would rush to ask him questions, “Did you shoot a gun Grandpa?” or “Was it like the movies?” All questions, I realize now, were asked without an understanding of the hardship he most definitely endured.  The kind man that he was, he’d pat me and say, “Oh, it’s a time I’d no longer wish to remember, that’s all.” But through old letters (he wrote to my grandmother) and tales from his youngest brother, I uncovered a tiny bit.  

In a clerical error, my Grandfather was sent to the wrong company.  When he arrived they didn’t know what to do with him.  They were all sent to a mission (including him), during the mission they sent him for supplies.  Upon his return, he found a gruesome truth, the Germans had bombed his entire company, he was the only survivor.  Alone, he found a foxhole to live in, due to the snow and freezing conditions.  He lived there for nearly a month, he then traveled.  He was able to find a plank of wood and write my grandmother a letter.  In a second letter to my Grandmother, he wrote that he found other soldiers and a home with one wall still standing - it felt like “paradise compared to the foxhole in the snow.”  I don’t know of any battle stories, for he was a man that found no comfort in a room full of war stories.  His brothers told of how he walked out of the room, his eyes welled up with tears, any time they began to talk of the war.

He was a humble and honorable man, never boasted or joyed in any of his many war stories.  When the war ended, the arrival of his son, my father, expedited his return home. He now had two children, which changed his tally in points, allotting him a ticket back home.  

He lived a long life, shared many wonderful years with his family, coaching his son on the baseball team, working at Goodyear, and then at his father’s Steel Factory.  In later years, he lost his wife and (three months later his) daughter.  On a day when his eyes filled with tears, he said “I never knew how much I would miss Helen, she was my best friend, she gave me the happiest days of my life,…” Some time after this, his memory began to fade and he became afflicted with Dementia.

My Grandfather was the closest I witnessed to a blameless life.  Always kind and loving.  I never saw my Grandparents argue or raise their voices.  As my mother said, “The house was full of love.”  In everything, he cherished family, faith, and happiness.  He was very intelligent, teaching himself how to speak Spanish, play piano, and immediately solving a Rubik’s cube that we received during Christmas time as children.  He enjoyed playing classical music on the piano, volunteering at his church as an usher, and often delivered Eucharist to the elderly.

I am thankful to have the honor and blessing of knowing my Grandfather.  He taught me what it is to love, respect, and honor your family and country.  Even in his last days, he never complained, showed fear, or lost faith.  He often welcomed us with smiles and uplifting words.  One of his last words he spoke was in reference to Psalm 23, that says “The Lord is my Shepard I shall not want…” after the reading he replied, “I’m so glad, He is my Shepard.”

A couple days later he passed.  Just one day short of his son’s birthday, once again ushering him a ticket home.

He is my hero.

 

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