Monday, July 16, 2007

My tribute

I did NOT write this, my cousin's wife did after spending a day with my grandpa this past spring...It is long I don't expect any of you to read it all the way thru, but I just wanted to post this where people could read it, so people knew what kind of a man my grandpa was...

I met a hero today. No he never said he was a hero, in fact, quite the opposite. He was very soft spoken, but underneath tough. To first meet him you would never guess in his heart soul hold so much. He wont talk about himself or his adventures, or what makes him a true hero in his life unless he s prodded. So it began with some medals in a small frame off to the side in his living room. He saw me glance at them and I watched his face light up in a smile growing as I turned to him and asked "are these yours" He said "yeah, I got them in World War 2..."

I first thought how could this now now small and frail man be a medal winner. It was when I heard his tales, I pictured him, in the 40's garbed in his uniform. A Staff Sergent. He made the trek 2260 miles from the beaches of Normandy to the Baltic Sea, in conditions I have never nor do I ever care to experience. Carrying what he called a small backpack weighing 25 to 30 pounds per day. He was the first recognizance unit to travel the rail, calling in the other troops, telling them what to expect u ahead, many times crossing enemy lines to call in the stronger fire. Camping out under tarps at night, trying to sleep on the ground. Getting shot at, and being shaken as he watched other die by his side. Yet never faltering. His unit was given one tank, two large guns and sent to watch the enemy move forward and report back their movements..He was ordered to go in hit and run, because they had no protection if they stayed.

Why did he do this I asked him? He meekly said because someone had to why not me? I loved serving my country.

As he told of some of his memorable experiences he talked about the medals he had won. He was in five major battles and he came home to raise a family and enjoy his future. He wont the Bronze Star, for calling in an important fire strike allowing the US troops to move to the German's once again. He won medals for each of those battles. He won a medal for the European theater of Operations. In addition , he won the Presidential Citation awarded for the action..( meaning winning a battle where you are being fired at over and over) at Meijel Holland. Although he said it was all just for "poking around central Europe". Then the story of medals took a back seat. His eyes drifted and he spoke softly...He sailed over to Normandy on the Queen Mary, watching as the Queen Elizabeth pulled into port. Not quite the pleasure cruise it was otherwise known for.
There were 30,000 military troops on the "boat" as he called it. It was packed and they spent in corners on the boards , on the deck. It was a nine day cruise to Scotland. He was on the D deck, 4 decks below waterline. He said the Queen Mary rolled with the waves and a bunch of the 30,000 got sea sick. I cant imagine such a cruise,spoiled with the niceties we have now. A cabin alone, hot showers, too many meals. My mind didn't stay there long though, I was again mesmerized by his tale, seeing the Queen Mary pull into Scotland June 13th 1941. He was excited and tired from the cruise, he trained for 2 and a half years for this day, yet nothing could prepare him for what happened next.

He was part of the invasion on Normandy,he came in on Utah Beach, just down from Omaha Beach, the one we see portrayed in the movie Saving Private Ryan. I watched his face as it automatically scowled u as he described the smell of burnt flesh , seeing body parts littering the beach..but he moved on taking about keeping his men focused on the task of getting up the beach into land to begin their job. Trekking though the countryside, finding the enemy, getting rid of them. He didn't dwell long on that, he moved onto highlights, throwing in small memories, tidbits that made the story come alive.
He was part of the Battle of the Bulge, although he says the movies never portray it correctly. Apparently the Germans knew the gas was already there in the area. The Germans were lax at the time and they didn't believe the townspeople when they told the soldiers that the Americans laid the wick to the gas and ignited it right under the Germans noses. Not quite as exciting as rolling barrels down hills and blowing them u with guns, but real and frighting all the same. He joined in with the French troops in France to help them in their quest t rid the land of threatening Germans. One of the best memories he had was leaving France, the French paid him $10.00 for their appreciation.To him that was a half months pay. He thought it was awesome. He was rich.

He then moved on to the fight at Holland to move Germans back to Germany.
He spoke of several encounters with General Patton. The first being when he spoke to their division after they won a medal for the battle they were in, the last time he saw General Patton was when Patton was directing traffic across the Rhine River. He said he saluted him then ran, everyone was very afraid of him as he was very mean, but his voice did not match his character, he said it was very scratchy and high-pitched, like a woman's voice. An interesting fact was Patton's family manufactured shoe was the only polish the military was allowed to buy or use.
Moving from fox hole to jeep to burned towns to endless fields where sniper fire was rampant. rain, shine, or snow, it never mattered to this strong solider standing before me.
He talked of when the war ended and everyone was told they could go home, how excited they all ere, finally, clean clothes, showers, regular food, what he came to learn was that almost everyone got to go home. They heard that you were awarded points for your duty and you needed 85 points then you would be sent home. He was ecstatic as he had 115 points, he was headed home, in his mind, but alas he didn't get to go, his unit was frozen there. He was to say and make sure the Germans complied with the terms put to them. He became part of the occupation. Yet no complaints again, he did what was asked of him to come home. How hard it must of been for him, to readjust to the different world, to begin again and go to a job each day. Yet he complied, he raised a family , he remained a hero.

That afternoon his stature grew, his slightly slumped shoulders stood square, he grew into a hero, my hero, knowing because of him and thousands other like him I stand in his living room. Free, free, so free I could never even appreciate the changes that would have come to me and my future if he had not been willing. Willing to put all he had on the line for me. For $21.00 per month. For his children, for his children's children.

He is my hero.

Now this hero faces a new battle, cancer again. He already fought and won against colon cancer. He didn't get a medal for that though. Now he faces lung cancer. However, as my hero, I know he has all of his battle expericne to pull thru. He is not a weak frail man as I once thought. He is a strong young soldier, back at home in his battle, ready to fight for the cause, ready to move forward with the strike, ready to be on the offensive. He will live forever, he is one of the lucky 7.

this is my grandma and grandpa

this is my grandma, my dad and my grandpa

grandpa and the bees

this is grandpa two weeks ago, his 88th birthday would end up being his last..

So there you have it, my grandpa is missed dearly. I miss him everyday, although I did not see him much, since we moved, I called him once a week..

I miss him and my heart still aches..

Thanks for all your comments..sorry I have not been around, once I get back home, things will get back to normal.

Peace out...


1 plus twins said...

what a beautiful post. it made me cry. you are my heart and prayers. when we first moved out here my grandmas died lung cancer, kidney cancer and stomach cancer. unfortunatly i never got to say good by. she was diagnosed and 6 weeks later passed. now a yr and half later i still miss her dearly. i am so so sorry for your loss. grandparents are so wonderful and it is so hard to say good bye. again i am so sorry for your families loss and think about you all often.

nora said...

What a lovely tribute.
Your grandpa was a terrific man.

Tom said...

They sure made WW2 vets tough! My Gramp was in WW1, and he died when I was 7 I can still smell the cigar smoke...My mom said he never spoke about it, and he saw 3 major battles.
Tough as nails all of them .... even at 88.

Cliff said...

A great post to the memory of a great man. You should be proud.
Sorry about your loss.
I'm off for a trip so will see you in about 10 days.

Flip Flop Goddess said...

1 plus twins,
thanks...its hard no matter how long they are week or ten years..I just hope it gets easier pretty soon.

thank you:)

tough as nails is right...My grandpa never talked about this is any of us, unless we asked. I had heard some of the stories before, not in full detail, but I never knew half of that stuff she found out in one day..She sat with him and wrote down everything he said..pretty cool.

thank you and have a nice trip;)

just_tammy said...

Beautiful. What a wonderful thing to have and share with the bees.

All the best to you and your family at this time. I sent something off to you at your home address so you'll get it eventually.

patti_cake said...

I am so sorry. I know your pain. My Grandpa was in WWII also and it is amazing to think of the things those tough men did. He died 9 years ago and I still miss him every day too and I think of him and my other grandparents daily and would give anything to spend just one more day talking to them and listening to all of the wonderful things they had to say. That was a beautiful, moving tribute and I hope your kids get to read it when they are older and can truly understand what a hero their Great Grandpa was!

Working Mom said...

Very beautiful post! Your Grandfather sounds wonderful. I'm so truly sorry for your loss.

Karin said...

I am so sorry you are grieving right now. I know all too well about losing a dear member of your family. Remember all the special times you all had together and make sure that you live by his example.

Vani said...

what a great post bossy. i'm sorry he's gone, but what a great life he lead. pass the memories on to the bees so he won't ever be forgotten.

Neurotic1 said...

What a great tribute for a great man! They never leave us if we keep their memory strong ;)

Humincat said...

Very nice. Glad you posted and if you ever want to escape to So. Cal. for some fruit instead of ice cream, I'm your gal.

Fantastagirl said...

What a beautiful post...

now I have to find a tissue!

Wethyb said...

So beautiful.