Reflections and ruminations from a modern day Alice - Life is Wonderland
Welcome to the place were I chronicle my own falls down dark holes and adventures chasing white rabbits! Come on In, Take a Bite, You Never Know What You May Find...
"Curiouser and curiouser." Alice in Wonderland
Reflection on a Family Veteran
|My grandfather fought in WWII. By the time I was a teenager, we had only ever heard one or two stories from his time in the service. He never spoke about those years even though we always suspected they featured predominately in the landscape of his life. He would have his old war buddies over or meet them at the local Mcdonalds. On those rare occasions when I would tag along or get roped into delivering a tray of ice tea to the picnic table in the back yard, the conversation always stalled in my presence. The animated banter simply dropped off until I'd retreated to a safer distance. I was in high school when an old boyfriend, a history buff and military collector, convinced my Grandfather to do a video-tapped interview on the war for a project. It was only then that my grandfather opened up about his years in the service and his feelings about a war that took such a devastating toll on his generation.
I remember now how he had looked uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed, sitting side by side with Roland, his best friend and fellow veteran. My boyfriend Alan had some scripted questions about specific events and dates but the most revealing answers came when the men were prompted to simply talk about their most memorable moments and feelings. My Grandfather spoke quietly, sometimes becoming emotional especially as he described being marched through a town where buildings and homes were on fire. A woman had run out into the street, her body engulfed in flames, and fallen practically at his feet. His eyes teared up as he described being ordered to "keep going, not to pay her any mind." My Grandfather seemed to stare a few moments into the space in front of him, swallowing and shaking his head slightly, lost in that memory.
The two men spent about an hour swapping stories that were representative of the best and worst of human nature. They spoke about camaraderie and of forging friendships and bonds that extended beyond the trenches, evidenced by the way they often finished each others thoughts or smiled fondly at memories of fellow soldiers and inside jokes. They spoke of the brutality of war, the corruption of their youth in battles fought on foreign soil for causes that at times, they had felt remarkable removed from. The most tragic revelation was realizing while the war had ended, it had left them and hundreds of thousands like them, forever marked and wounded in a way that would never heal. Suddenly my grandfather's midnight dreaming and ranting seemed to have a root cause. I discovered a new well of patience and understanding for a man that could so often be grumpy, aloof and very difficult. Only a few years later, my grandfather took his own life, with the very same weapon he had shouldered as a young infantry shoulder. The revealing and intimate portrait preserved on that videotape seemed to go at least part of the way toward explaining his tragic final action.
Memorial Day is a time to remember and to honor the sacrifices men and woman have made over and over again to protect our precious freedoms. I appreciate all our veterans but I have a special connection to those WWII veterans who are disappearing rapidly from our population. I see my grandfather in every aging veteran selling paper poppies outside the supermarket. I always stop. I make sure to thank them after they hand me my poppy flower. I note their shaking hands, their military dress hats and medals worn proudly despite the obvious age and wear. These were once the same young men who may have fought side by side with my grandfather. They may have had the same dreams. They may suffer the same kinds of nightmares. They certainly share the same pride and devotion to country and they deserve to be remembered, this day and all others.
© Copyright 2013 MD Maurice (UN: maurice1054 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
MD Maurice has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.
|Log In To Leave Feedback|