Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, veterans

When I think of veterans, I always think of my grandpa. He served in World War II, and the stories of his experiences in the war are more urban legend than fact, garbled misinformation and half truths passed around the family because my grandpa never spoke of the more exotic rumors. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Grandpa was a fighter pilot.

2. Grandpa was a spy for the underground in France.

3. While he was a spy for the underground in France, he got a nun named Suzanne pregnant. Two interesting side notes: When my grandfather came back to the United States and my mother was born, he named my mother Suzanne. Also, the French Suzanne did exist—I saw a letter she wrote my grandpa after the war.

These stories may be entirely false or hold small grains of truth about grandpa's service overseas. But he did once tell me a story, the only one I know to be true. When he finished telling it, he was crying, and I never had the nerve to ask about other stories. It goes like this:

When grandpa was stationed in England, he was a truck driver who drove those huge transport trucks with Army supplies on them. He stopped one night at a pub to eat. His truck was outside. A fight broke out in the bar, and my grandfather ignored it and continued eating—until the bartender accidentally clubbed my grandfather on the head.

So grandpa was arrested, and somehow in this mess he ended up in front of General Eisenhower, who sent my grandpa back for his truck. He drove General Eisenhower's military car that appears in the Presidential Library in Abilene, KS.

The next time he met General Eisenhower, he said, was several months later. General Eisenhower asked where the rest of my grandfather's squad was, and my grandfather had to tell him they were all dead.

Whether my grandfather was in England, France, or Timbuktu during the war, whether he really met Eisenhower or flew as a fighter pilot or was merely a truck driver, he, like countless veterans will be remembered today.

Thank you.

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