When it gets to be this time of year, it is hard not to get caught up in all of the hoopla that is the holiday season. There are Thanksgiving dinners to plan, Christmas shopping to finish (or start if you are like me) and so many things to get done that we often do not have an extra second to breathe. However, between the trick-or-treating and the carving of the turkey, there is one very important holiday that often gets overlooked, Veteran’s Day.
There is a long line of veterans on both sides of my family, with ancestors serving back as far as the Revolutionary War, however I admittedly do not know much more about my family’s history than that. I do know that both of my grandfathers were in the Army, with my mama’s daddy serving during World War II and my daddy’s daddy serving during the Korean War. Although they both served in the same branch just a few years apart, their experiences are about as different as they come.
My Papa (mama’s side) was in the Army Signal Corps and was a Message Center Chief in the European Theater and was involved in the encoding and decoding of classified messages. He was also in the first wave of soldiers on Omaha Beach Red on D-Day and continued on to the liberation of Paris and into Germany. He passed away when I was in first grade and his time overseas wasn’t something I ever remember him talking about. From what my mama has told me, he never wanted to discuss it when she was growing up either, as it was too painful for him to relive a second time around.
My Granddaddy (daddy’s side) was never sent overseas, but was stationed in Texas for two years during the Korean War. He and my grandmamma had not been married long when he found out he was to go to Texas and the story I have probably heard the most is of how he managed to make it to the base. Grandmama was to take Granddaddy and one of his friends out to a road in western Spalding County and drop them off so they could hitch-hike their way to the lone star state. They were in their uniforms, so they figured it wouldn’t be long before someone stopped to pick them up and help them reach their destination. The way my grandmamma tells the story is that she was worried to death leaving my granddaddy literally on the side of the road early that morning, but she did it anyway. She goes on to say by the time she made it back home that evening, my granddaddy had called to let her know he had made it safely to Texas and would send word when she could come and live on the base with him.
Both of these stories illustrate how vastly different each veteran’s story can be, yet in my opinion whether they were stationed half way across the globe or a few hundred miles away from home, does not diminish the debt of gratitude we owe them. Through the efforts of those who have served in the many branches of the Armed Forces, America has been able to establish and keep many freedoms that are not prevalent in other areas of the world. As Elmer Davis once said “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” To all of you who have served or are serving, whether at home or abroad, from the bottom of my heart I say thank you for all you have done and continue to do. You are the people who make America great.