My grandfather received a college scholarship to play baseball. He was never drafted, and could have stayed home while others went to do the fighting during WWII. Instead, he volunteered. His country needed him.
Like most people his generation, he didn’t say much about the war. A few stories, though, we loved. Once he was assigned to teach the non-swimming recruits how to swim. In the middle of the desert. With no water. When he questioned his superiors as to how they proposed he could undertake such a possibility, the swift response was, “That’s your problem, Sargeant!”
Only the army would try to teach soldiers how to swim without any water.
Never one to let details stand in his way, Grandpa lined up rows of benches on the parade grounds. The men lay atop them and learned the arm, leg, and breathing motions they’d need when they hit the water. Over and over again, out there in the 110 degree heat, those soldiers practiced and practiced until the day they got orders to their next destination. Grandpa later heard back that every one of them was able to swim when the time came.
Not all his service was stateside. He trained with paratroopers in England. Due to an injury, though, he was in the hospital when everyone shipped out. Not a single person on that mission survived.
Later he marched through Europe. He was at the Battle of the Bulge – something he never spoke of other than to acknowledge that he’d been there.
He was injured, and I never heard the details of when or where or how, but doctors told him he’d never walk again. He proved them wrong.
What incredible things he saw. What incredible sacrifices he and others like him made.
He chose to go to war, to fight for his country, when he didn’t have to. Unlike so many others, after the war he got to come home. His scholarship was no longer available, though, and there was no money for school. He married, worked hard, and raised a family – on a lot less money than he would have had if he’d attended college. Life’s goal isn’t to see who can accumulate the most money. It’s what’s inside that counts. Grandpa knew that.
Today is Veteran’s Day. Honor a vet.