As we move into the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, I find myself pausing and thinking of my Grandpas who both served in WWII, and who are now passed away. These two men (along with my Dad who I’m blessed to still have with me) are the face of patriotism in my life. I feel compelled to speak of them for a moment.
My Grandpas were part of the “Greatest Generation” as it has become known. My paternal Grandpa, Jim Miller, was an accountant. He was smart, patient, and quiet. His passion was playing cards and I have so many memories of family Euchre games in his basement. My maternal Grandpa, Juel Bernard, was a foreman for the gas and electric company. He was tan and fit from working outdoors. He was quiet but had a fantastic sense of humor and could fix just about anything. He was the man who taught me to dance a proper slow dance. He also had this half whistle/half hum that he would do that still is so fresh in my mind when I think of him.
They had such different personalities, skills, and backgrounds, but they had some very important things in common. Both had a gentle way about them and were kind men. I never saw either of them exhibit anything but love and generosity. They were honorable beyond question. Their word was their bond. If they said it, they meant it, and they did it. There was no room for them to turn away from family and all they committed to. However, the greatest common trait with these true gentle men was their bravery. I knew little of their service other than that they were in the Army and where they served, because they kept facts close to the vest. I know that they saw the most horrific things and felt the extremes of emotions and yet neither would burden their loved ones with details.
I remember one Memorial Day I was at my maternal grandfather’s house to celebrate the holiday. We were sitting around the table enjoying the grilled delights as we always did. I asked Grandpa about his service. He was a medic in the Army and said that at the end of the war he was in one of the groups that went into one of the concentration camps. I wish I could remember which one he mentioned but what happened next dimmed that detail. I told him that I was so proud of him. And I said I bet the people in that camp were so thrilled to see him and the other Americans roll in to save them. And in that moment, I saw the tears surprise him as they sprung into his eyes before he could fully turn and walk away so no-one would notice. I always knew he had been profoundly affected by the war, but that was the moment that I saw that the war he served in had forever torn a hole so deep into his heart that he would never, even as an old man, be able to articulate it. That was the only time in my life that I saw my Grandpa cry. It changed me forever.
It changed how I looked at our servicemen and women. I have always respected them. I have always had a deep sense of patriotism. But that was the moment that my heart knew there are no words strong enough to adequately honor the bravery of spirit that was required for these two young, Godly men to leave their loves, families, and friends in order to face imminent threat and possible death. I cannot imagine the horrors that their eyes saw, nor the terror that their hearts and minds lived through.
All I can do is say “thank you”, “I love you”, and honor their sacrifices and their memory by leading a life worth fighting for. I hope I am successful in that mission.
I hope that all those you love who have or do serve their country can sleep each night and know, with unshakeable certainty that they are loved, respected, and honored. Not just by the people they know and love. But also by those, like me, who do not know them by name but recognize them by character. Always remember their bravery and their actions. I honor and pray for all those who have served our country. I bless them and I bless you!