Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. When I saw my godsister, who served in the Air Force for a number of years, post pictures of her personal friends killed in Afghanistan, I realized how removed I really am from the depth to which Veteran’s Day can reach.
|Handsome 40s couple! Poppa in his uniform.|
Both my grandpas were veterans. Both of them are in heaven now. But I’ve been thinking about them, in light of Veteran’s Day, as well as other servicemen and women whose lives have touched mine.
“Poppa,” my mom’s dad, served in World War II. I wish I could ask him to tell me his stories again, especially now that I’m working on a novel partly set during that war! He served as gunnery officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and helped escort one of the last convoys across the Atlantic before D-Day. I remember hearing how he used to have to pick up the depth charges that failed to go off and throw them overboard with his own hands—he wouldn’t let any of his men handle such a dangerous task.
|Gramps and his horn.|
“Gramps,” my dad’s dad, served in the Korean War. As a professional trombonist, he became part of the Air Force band and stayed in the military a number of years. After nearly being court-martialed on his wedding day for trying to get to church on time, he was glad to get out! But he, too, served faithfully where he was placed. Here is Gramps playing the trombone a couple of years before he died—he was still so gifted.
Ted, one of my Navajo hosts and dear friends, who has become another “grandpa” to me, served in the Marines and is, according to a license plate sticker he owns, “Not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine”! He was deployed for the Cuban Crisis, though thankfully warfare was averted. I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for the Marines through him, and two of his older cousins served as Navajo Code Talkers in World War II.
|Ted at the Navajo Code Talkers Memorial|
Yet I have a lot to learn to be able to write about two veteran characters in my current story-in-progress. Poppa always said his time in the Coast Guard gave him a “healthy respect for the ocean,” and he had a story of chasing a German submarine, but his position meant he didn’t see a lot of actual combat. Neither did Gramps or Ted. Poppa’s brother, on the other hand, fought in the Marines in the South Pacific, with buddies blown up right beside him. I never knew Uncle Gordon, but I’ve heard how he used to just sit and gaze out at the ocean when he came back, not talking to anyone. With what I’ve been learning about combat conditions in the South Pacific through researching about Navajo Code Talkers, I can understand why.
Thank you, Poppa. Thank you, Gramps. Thank you Ted, and my godsister, and all those who have sacrificed so we could be as safe and free as we are. I can’t grasp all the heartache and conflict you’ve seen, but I hope to learn a bit more of your side of the story as I research in the weeks and months to come.