On this Memorial Day I find myself thinking of you. I only know you through family stories and pictures. You passed away before I was born, but your memory stays with me.
When Dad (your son) passed away in 2004, the task of settling his affairs fell to me. My mother was in no state to handle the many arrangements, insurance paperwork and details. As I worked my way through the boxes and files in my father's office, I unearthed an unexpected gem. A small metal box with various military memorabilia and medals. At first I thought they were Dad's, from his time in the Marine Corps. But then I found your United States Army Air Corps Identification Card.
It felt strange to hold this artifact from the past. A personal object you carried every day in your pocket. I slowly opened the small leather wallet and gazed at your identification picture. And your handwritten signature. The issue date on the identification card was November 21, 1944. Little did you know then, nearly a year would remain before the end of the war.
From family stories I knew you were a career military man. During the depression people would pay for rides in your bi-plane. Poor as people were, entertainment was a momentary escape from their suffering.
I knew that you taught high school mechanical drawing, and had the nickname of "dead eye" Weiss. Because you used to throw chalk board erasers, with total accuracy, at snoozing and misbehaving students. I also knew that following retirement you went to law school. The oldest student in your law class. And that shortly after beginning your law practice, you fell ill with a brain tumor that would claim your life.
My father had been a United States Marine until his forced medical discharge due to a heart murmur. The murmur was caused by a bout with rheumatic fever as a kid. Dad bribed his doctor to overlook it when he joined the Marines. But when they sent him to Officer Candidate School, another physical was required and the murmur was found. The jig was up, and despite his protestations, Dad's dream of a military career was over.
I almost joined the military myself. A recruiter visited me before I graduated from college. I learned about Officer Candidate School and the many opportunities and travel I could experience. It was Dad who talked me out of it. He suggested graduate school instead. He felt my creative, independent nature was an imperfect fit for military life. Of course, he was right. Ironic that I would land a career in the paramilitary world of law enforcement. But police work is less rigid than military life, and I found places where my artistic abilities could be used (such as composite sketches).
Memorial Day is all about remembering the fallen. Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I realize that you survived the war, Grandfather. Thank God for that. But you must have lost many dear friends. Men you likely shared your dreams with, or attended military balls with. I wonder how many military funerals you attended? Sadly, I've attended too many law enforcement funerals, so I know the pain.
On this Memorial Day, I want to thank you. For fighting and defending our country. For allowing my family and I to live in peace and be blessed with so much. I also want to thank your many friends. The ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Who didn't come home. I never got the chance to know you, or hear stories about the buddies you lost. But I thank you, and them, none the less.
So, Grandfather, I'll close this letter of remembrance and gratitude. Please say hello and send my love to Dad. I miss him every day, but I suspect he knows that. On this memorial day, I will reminisce about you both, and continue to give thanks to the fallen. God bless you, and our great country.