It’s Veteran’s Day.
I don’t have to work today, in fact, I could happily hang out in my pajamas all day. But, I won’t.
I could go to all the Veteran’s Day sales and window shop. But I won’t.
I will probably quilt and listen to Pandora, but I will be thinking of a special man in my life..
I will be thinking about my Grandad. I have been very fortunate to have grandparents involved with my life. I never thought about life without them. I just didn’t. Until last year, when suddenly, Grandad wasn’t there anymore.
He suffered from Alzheimers so he had been quietly fading from our family for some time. He was never a very loud or aggressive man. He was simply my grandad. He taught me and my sisters to play cards from an early age. And he would never ever, let us win. If we won a game, we really won a game. He taught me all the ways to add to 15 by playing cribbage with me. He would sneak chocolate to me. And before I left for college, he suggested that if I went to a college party, to just walk around with a can of beer, and that way I wouldn’t have to drink! He loved to read non fiction, and once, confided if things had been different, he would have liked to have been a math teacher. He rescued an abused dog, and brought it home. The only person that Jeffy the dog ever even liked, was my grandad. He was one of the gentlest people I have ever know. And he was a Veteran of World War II.
As a child, He had lost an eye playing bows and arrows with his friends. He lost the complete sight in that eye. When World War II began, he was classifed as 4-F. He could have stayed home throughout the war, and not been involved. Not my grandfather. He memorized the eye chart and went up to Minneapolis where no one knew him and his blindness, and passed the physical. ( As a mother, I can only imagine the pride/terror mixture my great grandmother must have felt. )
He served as a telephone operator in the various POW camps and then transferred to the infantry where he was trained to remove land mines. He was stationed at this time in Fort Warren in Cheyenne Wyoming. There were so many GI’s and so few women in Cheyenne, that the GI’s would charter buses and go to the big city of Fort Collins Colorado. That was how my Grandad and Nana met, on a blind date, between a GI and a local girl. Shortly after they were married, Grandad shipped out to the Phillipines.
When he was a teenager, in his hometown, there was a pea cannery that used huge steam kettles to cook the peas prior to canning. Grandad worked in that cannery one season during the late 1930’s. On the ship to the Phillipines, they had the exact same steam kettles, but no one knew how to use them. So with some sort of snafu, Grandad wound up in the kitchen cooking for the other men, since he knew how to operate the kettles. He was a good cook, and literally cooked himself out the land mine job into the kitchen. He was so good that he cooked for many of General MacArthur’s staff officers in Japan. He met General MacArthur personally. ( He was always so proud of that fact. ) General MacArthur enjoyed the food, so he had asked Grandad to become his personal mess sergeant, and stay with the Army for his career. He declined… ready to be done with the Army.
He never really had any other stories about his time in the service other than the story about General MacArthur. It wasn’t until after his death, while sorting through the photos, that I found a entire folder of old photographs of his time in Japan. He was proud that he had served his country. He was very proud of his Army service, but unless pushed, he never shared.
There are many people in the military today. Our country has learned from the bitterness of Vietnam, that despite any person’s personal political views, the armed forces are to be honored.
They do not get a huge paycheck. They go to work everyday, with the knowledge that they could die while at work. So I do think of the armed forces sacrifices, their families that will be missing someone around the table this holiday season, and the families that will never see someone again. So they are all my heroes. And I suspect that would be how my grandad would want it too.