Today is veteran’s day. I find myself again thinking back to my grandpa and the few stories he would tell of his service in the war. He served in the army and was stationed in north Africa and south Italy. Grandpa never told any stories about battles or the darker side of the war. He never wanted to relive any of it and he felt that it did us no good to tell us the horror he went through because we were kids.
There were times, though, that he talked vaguely of some of the trials he went though. It seemed that he just let his guard down a little and would reminisce a before he realized what he was saying. Then he would stop talking about it. One day he absently said that the .32 caliber pistol that he had coated in nickel was pointed at him before he came to have it. When I asked how he got it to not point at him, he just mumbled something and changed the subject. He mentioned once about how he got grazed by a bullet across his stomach and that if he was as fat then as he was now, he would have gotten it for sure. Then there was the time he told me that I needed to be careful waking him up in case he might try and hit me as he came awake. The look in his eyes when he said it was hard to take because I saw the fear that he felt at the thought of mistaking me for someone else in the drowsy time of waking. Like I said though, these times were very fleeting.
Most of the time, he talked of the good times he had while he was in the war. In one story he describes how his band of guys picked up a couple of baby rabbits that they had come across in their travels. They kept the rabbits as pets for quite a while until the rabbits did what rabbits did best – they bred. Grandpa said that they ended up having quite a few cages that were really stuffed with rabbits and they had to finally do something about it. They didn’t want to care for them anymore so they decided to butcher them all about and have a grand feast. That is just what they did too.
Grandpa was quite the ingenuitive person. People of importance seemed to come to him with problems they needed solved and to find inventive ways to repurpose things. One day, a Colonel or some other higher ranking officer came to him with a specific problem they were having with a missile. He was told that these missiles were designed to be hung from a fighter plane and used for air to land purposes. The problem was that the wires that fired the missile were run on the outside of the launch tube. When the missile was fired, the back wash of the missile would burn the wires off each time so that they had to be replaced every single time that they were fired. What they wanted was to somehow turn these missiles from air to land use to land to land use. Grandpa was more than up to the task.
First he decided that he would run the firing wires in copper tubing so that they would not be burned each time the missiles were fired. Then he formed the tubes into a double row so that there were about eight to ten in each row. Of course he attached all this to a platform that could be moved. Finally, he wired the firing mechanism to a dial he call a rheostat so that he could just turn a knob one click to fire a missile.
So he relates the story:
“”The officer asked me to demonstrate the launcher for him and I was more than happy to show him.”
“Fire a missile Sargent,” he said and I turn that dial once and off it went. It struck the burn down range right where I wanted to.
Then he said, “Fire two of them.”
I turned the dial two click and the missiles flew out one right after the other. The Officer saw how fast I launched them and asked, “How fast can you fire those?”
I said, “Would you like a demonstration, sir?” and he said get on with it.
“I took hold of that dial and just spun it completely around (he made a motion with his hand that looked like he just spun a top). There was fire all over the place and when it settled the hill I was shooting at was practically gone!”
With a sly smile he said, “I turned to the officer and said, ‘would you like another demonstration, sir?’ and he turned to me and said, ‘Jesus Christ Sargent NO I don’t want another one!”
I have my Grandpa’s medals from the war and now I have his jacket. There are not enough words that can be said to explain how much they mean to me. No person can understand the depth of his character and his mentorship. No one can truly know the price he paid with his life and duty. All I ask is that if you would like to protest something about our country that displeases you, do it in person or in the form of votes and freedoms of speech. Keep it civil and educated. Keep it peaceful and with honor. But please – please – do not disrespect our flag. Our flag is a symbol of our country and our countries values based on the constitution. Maiming it or destroying it or abstaining a pledge to it is not protesting an injustice; it is protesting the values and the freedoms that you are exercising. In a way, you are insulting all those people who fought, like my grandpa, for the values our national flag stands for. Your problem is not with our values and the constitution. It is with people.
Happy veterans day to all those who have served and who are serving.