It's a day late , but yesterday was both busy and not one of my better days.
In keeping with the point of the holiday, I reflected on the lives of two men close to my heart - my grandfathers, both of whom served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II.
My paternal grandfather served on board the USS Pennsylvania, dreadnought flagship of the Pacific Fleet, leaving behind his wife and infant son (my uncle) to pay his dues to his country. He was proud of his service, and I remember growing up that he always kept a model of his ship built by one of my cousins on a shelf in his dining room. At his funeral, one of his brothers, also Navy, saluted him as he lay in state in between a Knights of Columbus honor guard, and the scene broke my heart.
I have his Bluejacket's Manual at home, kept carefully among my other WWII memorabilia. Jim, I'm honored to be your grandson, and I miss you. See you when the time comes, Granddaddy.
My maternal grandfather was a 16-year-old kid from a rough background who decided he'd join up after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He lied about his age to get in, and was assigned to a destroyer, the USS Abner Read, which was sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. The Japanese sunk his beloved ship when a kamikaze pilot dropped a bomb down one of her stacks and the plane came down athwartships. My grandfather's closest shipmate credited him with saving his life while they waited for rescue, and that man's family forever held my grandfather in the highest of esteem for this act. My grandfather looked back on those days of service with the greatest of pride, and I believe he felt at home during those years like never before or after, until he found his place in the world again in Colorado.
He was cremated after his death and his ashes were spread in his beloved Colorado. His flag rests upon my mantle next to a wartime photograph in which he's in uniform, grinning ear-to-ear like the schoolboy he was. My own memory of that same grin is most clear when, not too long before his death, he watched my daughters play in my mother's yard. They were running back and forth to him as he sat in a lawn chair, and the occasional tear trickled down his face as he watched them. Ken, I'm honored to be your grandson, and I miss you. See you when the time comes, Pappaw.
Thank you both for your service and the families you started on your return.
Thank you to the men who fought alongside you who did not come home - their sacrifices will not be forgotten, not by me or my children or my grandchildren.
And thank all of you who have served, and especially those who are serving now in some far corner of the world, far from home. God bless you, and take care of yourselves.