[ Photo: My grandfather, James H. Ward, & his brother, John | 1944 ]
Both my father and grandfather served in the military. I knew this fact when I was growing up, although neither really ever talked about it much. I do remember that my grandfather had an old picture of a navy ship in the basement when I was a kid. I’m sure I asked him about it at one point or another (at least, I hope I did), although I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t recall his answer.
A couple years ago, the local paper interviewed some veterans in the area. In just a few short paragraphs, I came to know more about my grandfather’s experience than I’d learned in all my years prior. I decided to make a point to ask him about the article and his experiences, a gesture that was admittedly long overdue. To my surprise, he sat down and told me a few stories. While recounting what I’m sure was an extremely sanitized version of the things he witnessed all those decades ago, he began to tear up and had to stop. Death witnessed, friends lost, the horror still alive in his eyes… there it all was, right on the surface.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the fact that countless men and women over the years have made the decision to serve our county — I certainly did — but it was more of an abstract theory for which I felt no personal frame of reference. That day, though, the look in my grandfather’s eyes was the instant frame of reference that I needed.
For each and every one who serve and have served, on this Veterans Day and every day, I have nothing but gratitude. Thank you.