Both of my grandfathers served in the military. Both fought in the Pacific in WWII and fought honorably. My mom’s father was on his way to San Diego from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and they had to immediately turn around and get back there after the attack. I also know he, while in the Pacific, had to release the bodies of the dead into the Pacific Ocean. I can only imagine they things they saw and understandable why very little of what they saw made it to me over the years.
The things I remember about them are great memories. My dad’s father passed away just past my seventh birthday. I remember walking in and they told me grandpa had a stroke. Not having a clue as to what that meant, I just said “cool.” Granted, I was seven; however, there are so many times I think of that and feel horrible. He let me sit in his old chair and listen to his police scanner. He did not even let his own sons sit in that chair. I remember sitting there acting like I knew what was being said no the radio but I had no idea. He also would always take me out in his old truck and we would drive along the streets of Metairie, LA, a parish outside of New Orleans. I called them “the boomps” when we would go over a bump in the road. I think he loved hearing me call them “boomps” but I also think he was loving spending time with his grandson. Sometimes, after he had worked all day and I wanted to play at night, He would sometimes tell me he had a bone in his leg. That did not sound good at all so I would leave him alone. Always makes me smile when I think of that phrase.
The picture to the right is from the last time I saw him. It was the summer of 1986 and my parents were finalizing the deals on a new house and I spent a few weeks with Grandpa and Grandma. What I am attempting to do in this picture is something called “Second Line Dancing".” I was dancing around that boat like a crazy fool but had a blast.
My mom’s father passed away in November 1991 when I was 11 years old. We would spend nights and nights sitting watching baseball games. He is where I get my baseball obsession. This is when ESPN would carry back to back baseball games on Wednesday night. I would do everything possible to stay awake while watching the games and I would not succeed. He would carry me to bed AFTER the game was over. I think he wanted me to subconsciously take in as much baseball as possible. He was a man who loved God, loved his family and loved his country. The relationship between papa and his wife, granny, can be summed up by one event. A long time before I was around, they were out in the yard playing baseball. My Granny can hold her own when it comes to sports (ask my father and me about a certain HORSE basketball game.). Papa was pitching and threw a fastball trying to sneak one past granny. She had none of that and lined one right back at him. It makes me smile just thinking of the shock on papa’s face when that ball came right back at him.
When he passed, the one who told me was my brother who told me “papa died.” I got my stuff at school and we started the process of going to Shreveport for the funeral . It was the first funeral I had been to of a close family member. His eulogy had several mentions of me and our love of baseball. As I passed the coffin, I remember losing it and bawling.
There was a part of the event I will NEVER forget. We are driving to the ceremony and we were the car right behind the casket. About halfway there, we passed through an intersection and I look to my right and there on the side of the road a gentleman stood there and saluted the car. It gives me chills remembering that moment. For someone who did not know my grandfather to salute him as he made his way to his final resting place gives me chills. That moment taught me to remember those who serve our country, whether I know them or not. They are standing up for us and giving me the chance to be free.
So one this memorial day, stand up and salute those you know or do not know. They are giving us or have given us a sense of freedom. We watched the movie “Taking Chance” the other night. It is based on a true story in which the main character played by Kevin Bacon accompanies a soldier home after he has been killed in the Middle East. Everywhere they stop on their way home, they are saluted and appreciated for their sacrifice. The part the reminds me of the man saluting my grandfather, is when the General accompanying Chance is asked how he knew Chance. He said, “I did not know him. He was from my hometown.” He didn’t know him, yet it still meant a great deal.
There are families all over remembering today their fallen loved ones and those overseas. I would just like to say thanks from the bottom of my heart.