Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's unclaimed inspiration

To my shame... I saw my FIRST Veteran's Day parade this past weekend.

We were downtown for my daughter's ballet lesson, and decided to stay so the girls could see the parade.  It was so windy and there was a chill to the air, but we wrapped them up and held them tight as a military band started to play and the parade began.  We watched as high school ROTCs marched down the road and vintage cars slowly drove by.  Groups of motorcycles  waving POW flags rolled past, revving their engines the whole time.

We watched...and the girls loved it...Then a moment came that is hard to let go of.  A vintage pick-up truck with a "recipients of the Purple Heart" banner was inching past us.  The passenger of the truck was a kind-faced man at least 85 years old.  He was waving to the crowd, and then he glanced our way.  I had told the girls to wave and yell "Thank you!" as people passed.  I was holding Isabella, our three year old, and when she saw this man, she waved and yelled "Thank you!".  He looked at her...and I could see the emotion on his face as he waved to her energetically and said "Thank you for coming out".  At that moment I was ashamed that this man was thanking us.  He had been wounded in the defense of our country, had made innumerable sacrifices, and he was thanking us for watching a parade.  It seemed like such a small gesture to honor this man and all of the men and women who have made the commitment to protect what we all take for granted.   


My grandfather joined the Army in 1941. He served as a medic, a first sergeant with the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division that was in the first assault wave to hit the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Today he is 93 years old and about to celebrate his 70th wedding anniversary with my grandmother Clyde.  I had always known that he was a veteran of WWII, but he rarely spoke of it.  In fact, he just started recounting some of his experiences in the past few years.  The video above was made by a local tv station three years ago.

Grandma and Grandpa were married on December 20th, 1941, after he enlisted in the army.  He shipped off to England in September of '42.  He and Grandma would not see each other again for almost four years.  She wrote him every day (you can see some of the vmail she wrote to him in the picture above).  And even though he would often not receive her letters for weeks,  he has said that her words about everyday life at home helped him immensely.  Sacrifices were made not only by the servicemen and women, but by the loved ones they left behind- the spouses, parents, brothers and sisters and children who worried about them.

From the stories grandpa has told and more from what I know he has never said....I know the war changed him.  My grandfather is the most honorable man I know.  He is a consummate joker, a great storyteller, a wonderful inventor,  a loyal husband and friend, an amazing father and grandfather and my everlasting inspiration.

 I thank you Walter Lawrence Dickens, not only for what you did for our country, but what you have meant to me and everyone who has known you.  I love you.

Even though it is a small gesture- take the time to appreciate what others have sacrificed for us.  Thank a veteran today.

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