When I taught Social Studies I most enjoyed the curriculum that allowed me to teach about the United States. It made me sad on Friday to overhear conversations about this upcoming weekend, and never once feel there was an understanding of Veteran’s Day. When I was a fifth grade teacher the children wrote about their “Rights and Responsibilities” as American citizens. That was a long time ago.
I was raised to answer the question, “Where are you from?” with, “The United States.” Growing up, that aggravated more than one person who was looking to learn where my ancestors had traveled from to arrive in America.
Precise language. They learned to ask the question they wanted to know the answer to, or not to ask.
I am the proud daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, and the grateful granddaughter to 3 WWII veterans. Although 2 of my grandfathers are no longer here with us in body – their spirits remain strong in my soul.
All of the men I mentioned served in war. All of them returned home to us. All of them shaped my life and helped me become the woman I am today.
Pop T. came home after serving in Iwo Jima, to raise a family of 9 – 8 boys and a girl. Visiting their house as a child was certainly wildly fun. My father is the oldest child, and my sister and I were the first grandchildren. We enjoyed time with Pop who had left behind a promising athletic future before his service in the war. He had time to impart much of his wisdom before he passed in 1993. My only sadness is for my many cousins that never got to know him the way I did. There is no denying his legacy.
GGPa came into our lives later when Mom married Ken. I was 15 years old, and my sister was 18. Ken wrapped his arms and his heart around both of us, and truly made my world a better place. At the time his parents, who came to be known to us as GGPa and GGMa had no grandchildren of their own. I was so flattered that they accepted us and enveloped us with such love. GGPa is gone over a year now, but in our years together I got to know the definition of “gentleman” through him. He was a positive influence, a pleasure to be around and a treat to talk to. He is missed and loved and appreciated.
Pop G. is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The fact that I will turn 40 next week, and I can recount my day by saying “I spent some time with my grandparents,” in and of itself is amazing. Not to mention that they are 93 and 94 – living in the second floor of their own home. I grew up during my most formative years, in the first floor of that home. I had the daily love and support of my grandparents. When I speak of Pop, and the influence he has had, even I am at a loss for words. His faith dictates how he lives. He loves God, his family, and all others before himself. I am so blessed to listen to his stories, and to revel in years of beautiful memories, while still making more!
And then there is my father. The free spirit whose love of adventure has guided him down many paths in his life. We have conversations that always leave me deep in thought. He has experiences that are broad, from far and wide. Most recently in the last few years that road led him right back closer to home, and I have been so grateful to have him just around the corner. My girl has gotten to know him, and always remarks about his smile. He tells her he smiles because of her. His genuine heart, and the depth of his love have made him the person he is today – one I am truly glad to have in my life.
There are children who seek desperately one male influence in their lives. The amount of time I have been afforded with each of these men is a gift. I will not squander the knowledge, and life lessons I desperately try to soak up like a sponge.
Each of them saw things I do not dare imagine. Each of them lived experiences I will never understand. Each of them sacrificed, time, love, health, and so much more.
I can only imagine that at some point they have all wondered why they got to come home when some of their comrades did not. And, while I can not ever know the plan – I can, on my knees thank God for returning each of them safely so they could live their lives.
Not everyone is as fortunate.
I have received a gift too great to squander, too valuable to toss aside, and too personal not to wear it close to my heart each day. For it is because of them that I am. It is because of them that I have learned poise, strength, and grace under pressure. It is because of them that I know to love so deeply. It is because of them I have been blessed with my daughter, unique, RARE, and determined to change the world.
You may want to complain that life isn’t perfect. You may want to complain about the country. And while I can agree that many things are not as they should be, remember what my grandfather said to me, “The Constitution is an extremely well-written document, the flaws are in its execution.”
And regardless of your political stance on any war ever – support the soldiers. Those men and women are there out of a selfless love of country. They are making sacrifices far beyond what we see and what we know.
I am PROUD to be an AMERICAN, and even prouder to be related to so many who loved this country enough to fight to defend the principles it was founded upon.
Veteran’s Day. November 11. FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.