My Grandpa in Germany during World War II
In 2008 I had went out to my Grandpa's house and visited him on his birthday. He has always been the type of man who likes to tell stories or give his opinion. During that visit he started to tell me about his life when he was younger. I asked him if he had enlisted in the army and he laughed and shook his head.
"I got a letter in the mail saying your friends of family of America have asked you to serve your country in the US Army," he told me. "The first thing I thought, friends and family, my ass!"
He went on to tell me where he spent most of the time in Germany, and some of the buddies he made over there. He didn't mention how he was a Sargent or how he won all the medals that are in a box up in his attic. He didn't talk about how hard it was or how scared he was even though I knew he had to have been especially at such a young age. Instead my Grandpa, being who he is, told me more comical stories that involved him having too many drinks. Like how he wound up with a huge dagger tattoo on his right arm that has a snake wrapped around it.
"Me and a buddy had to be in Chicago just for about a day or two before heading back to Germany. Your Aunt Marie was living there at the time and after I visited with her, me and him hit the bars. The next morning I woke up on your Aunt Marie's floor with a big bandage on my arm. I ripped it off and seen this thing on there. Don't ask me how I got it and don't ask me what it's supposed to say on the handle there because I didn't know back then either! And that's why, Amber Dawn, you should never get drunk in Chicago."
My Grandpa served his time in the army and stayed in Germany until the war had ended. He said he could still remember being in that abandoned mansion with his troop. They were celebrating, and one of them realized a German troop was doing the same on the other side.
"And all I could think was I sure as hell hope someone gave those Germans the memo the war was over."
When he came back to the states he continued his life in Michigan where he met my Grandma. I asked him if it was love at first site and he laughed so hard. "All we did was fight the first six months we knew one another. Come to think about it, that never really stopped. Ma was quite the woman, ya know." He wasn't lying. My Grandma was as tough as nails and he loved her. Together they had four children, two boys and two girls and one day decided to move their family from Michigan to California where my Grandpa worked many different jobs then became a truck driver. Around the time my mom was sixteen my Grandpa moved them to Missouri to the town where I currently live. He still worked as a truck driver and invested in real estate where my grandparents rented out business buildings, houses, and ran a liquor store for a while. His full-time job of truck driving went down to part-time and finally my Grandpa hung his hat up and "retired" to running his own farm and cattle.
During those years him and my Grandma traveled like crazy. Their house was filled with family and two overly hyped up blonde girls, my sister and I, who loved being out on the farm whether it be fishing or riding on the tractor. In 1996 my Grandma passed away due to a stroke and one year later, my Grandpa lost his youngest son. Looking back, I have so much admiration for this this man. He was so strong during all of it. He always, no matter what has ever happened, continued to move forward.
Three weeks after I had sat at his kitchen table listening to him tell stories of his life while he drank his coffee and I drank Dr. Pepper, I received a shocking call that he was possibly having a stroke. I drove out there, checked on him, and after much time my mother finally convinced him to go to the hospital. That possible stroke turned out to be many strokes. A couple weeks later another massive stroke hit him. We weren't for sure if he was going to make it. It seemed that he was just going to give up. I think because of his strong will, or quite possibly the fact that the man is the most stubborn person alive, decided he wanted to go home and that's where he went. He still gets to live on his farm, not by himself anymore, but with the help of others he still moves forward.
In two months my Grandpa will be turning ninety. Ninety. Can you imagine living that long? I can't begin to imagine all the things he has seen or expericed in his life. Because of the strokes he now suffers from dimensia so I regret never getting to really ask him things because he doesn't quite remember. There are still moments where I walk into the door and he yells out a big, "Hello Amber Dawn!" We all take advantage of his good days. Letting him tell us the same story, even though we have heard it five times before, or share something new. I know I will never work as hard in my life as my Grandpa has. Having him in my life and knowing the things he has accomplished constantly inspires me.
I thank him for serving his country.
I thank him because he was raised in a generation of respect and always held it high.
I thank him for coming back from war and living his life to the fullest when so many weren't given that chance.
I thank him for reminding me how lucky I truly am.
And I thank all soldiers from the past, present, and future that continue to fight for the United States of America so that you and I can live here in this freedom we sometimes forget we have.
My Grandpa, Veterans Day 2012, talking to his great-grandson.