My favorite Veteran is my granddad. He is also who I named my son, Jesse, after. My granddad did not lose his life for our country, but it did forever change him. My granddad fought in World War II and was a Prisoner of War for nineteen months in Germany. Let's just think about that for a minute. For NINETEEN long months, my granddad went to bed (which was made of wood shavings and a burlap bag), wondering if he would see his home country again. For NINETEEN months, my granddad ate food that caused him digestive probelms for decades later, wondering if he would gather around the dinner table with his family again. In fact, he lost fifty pounds as a Prisoner of War. For NINETEEN months, my granddad listened to people talk about him, in a language that he did not understand. For NINETEEN months, my granddad battled things like frost bite, malaria, and was even unconscious for three days, without any medicines or medical care. Nineteen months!
My granddad passed away when I was sixteen years old. I had heard a few stories about his war days, but I never really understood what he had done for me and for our country until I had my own kids. Part of that was because I was a kid and probably didn't show much interest in history, part of that was because my granddad was a man of few words (completely opposite of that little Jesse we have running around now).
A few days ago, Mark and I were discussing with Jess (four years old), what Memorial Day is, and about the man he was named after. We told him that we hoped he loved his country as much as my granddad did. He said, "I don't want to fight for my country, I want to be a policeman!" We said, that's fine, you can protect our country here, as a policeman." Then he said, "And, I may want to be a construction worker." We said, "That's great, too, you can work to build things for our country." Honestly, it doesn't matter to me what my children become when they grow up, as long as they are fulfilled. The fact that they have options and get to choose what they become is greatly due to the fact that the men and women of the military have fought for those freedoms. I think this is what the Declaration of Independence describes as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
After nineteen months as a P.O.W. my granddad was rescued and flown to San Antonio, Texas to recover. He married my beautiful grandmother three months later. In 1995, a few months before his death, they celebrated fifty years of marriage. Not everyone that serves our country gets to come home. Today, as you celebrate Memorial Day, remember the men and women that fought for our country, but especially the ones that did not make it home. Remember their families as they still mourn the empty chair at their dinner table.
Thanks for reading!