Today is Veteran’s Day. The veteran I have known my entire life is my grandpa. He has always downplayed being in World War II. He entered the war late he says. He did not see combat. Yet he was stationed in Italy and today if he were to tell you about it you would think he was there yesterday. He remembers every detail about time in the Army, every detail about his travel and his time in Italy. I have heard so many of his stories over the years that certain things in life remind me of my grandpa in the Army. Simple things like strawberry ice cream with chocolate sauce. We would eat that together when I was a kid and he would tell me about eating strawberry ice cream with chocolate sauce in the Army. A North Dakota farm boy he met people from all over the United States. Together they bonded and all fought for our nation in a manner that no other generation has ever had to fight. Then quietly they returned to create and build a booming nation. Grandpa went to college on the GI bill. His younger neighbor girl was now at the same college and we are all thankful he married her!
In late September this year, Grandpa at age 84 went solo from Grand Forks on the Northern Valley Honor Flight to Washington DC with other eastern North Dakota veterans to see the World War II memorial. It is a tremendous program for veterans. If I did not have three busy and young kids including a little baby…I would have gone with him but he promised us he did not need a chaperone. He could go alone. The day he left he missed the funeral of his cousin and “brother” Thoris who grew up alongside of my grandpa, was a fellow World War II veteran, went to college with him and then farmed a mile from him for decades. Early in the planning to go on the Honor Flight trip, Thoris and Grandpa planned to go together. But Thoris’s health began to fail and then he passed away just days before the departure date. Thoris’s kids insisted Grandpa still go on the Honor Flight.
My cousins and uncle that live near Baltimore were able to see Grandpa on his trip. I was anxious to see pictures of the trip. The Honor Flight chapter gave him a free camera. But of course, Grandpa said “oh I didn’t use that”. A local news channel followed their flight. I watched through all of the raw video. And I cried hearing how important it is to the surviving World War II vets to see the memorial and to hear their war stories. They are all so humble and grateful. I talked to Grandpa about his trip and he said they were treated like royalty which is exactly what they deserve.