Friday, November 12, 2010

Lest We Forget

This Remembrance Day unfortunately I was working so I was unable to attend any of the Remembrance Day ceremonies. However I did spend that remembering. I will admit that my thoughts are usually not for the veterans as a whole but that I tend to focus on one or two special people.
My grandfather was a veteran of the second World War. He passed away many years ago but I do think of him specifically every Remembrance Day. My grandfather was not a soldier but was a medic in the field. My grandmother would not let him talk about (she was also profoundly affected by the war in a very negative way that she would refuse to talk about and would not allow talk of the war in her presence). However, if my grandmother was preoccupied I would ask him about those years and after his death we found a few journal entries from when he was in Europe. Before the war my grandfather worked as an accountant, someone who's job rarely involves death. However during the war, my grandfather looked death in the face more times that I can imagine. He would have to run out to injured soldiers on the battlefield and either carry wounded out of danger and treat injuries or console those who were to injured to survive. His journals recalled men his own age shaking and weeping like children at the fear of dying. He lost many friends and comrades during those years. After his death I found a yearbook of sorts from his regiment that was compiled prior to being deployed to Europe. After the war, my grandfather had gone through and marked off the men who died in battle. There were entire pages of men who were gone.
During the war, my grandfather was awarded a purple heart for the injuries he sustained during a raid. His injuries were not enough to send him though, he said in Europe and served until the end of the war.
I never knew what my grandfather was like prior to the war but some of my relatives did. He was very changed by the war. I never asked him how he felt he changed but he did. After the war, the army offered to pay for my grandfather to attend medical school. He refused, he had seen enough death. He returned to being an accountant and he and my grandmother had another child. I think my grandfather felt a real sense of attachment to the men who lived through situations similar to his. However because of how much the war affected my grandmother, she would not allow him to participate in activities such as reunions and Remembrance Day ceremonies because she needed to pretend the war didn't happen to them. I think that hurt my grandfather, I think he would have really benefited from reuniting with other veterans and acknowledging who was lost and what had happened.
Every Remembrance Day I spend a lot of time thinking about my grandfather. He, like so many others, sacrificed a lot of himself for the life I can now live. He lost friends but I think he lost a little bit of faith and trust in us all. He was a very kind gentle man but I sort of felt as though he was defeated by his own sense of morning over what happened in those years. I'm not sure that I ever thanked him for what he did and what he gave up. But I hope that he (and everyone else who fought for our freedom) know how truly grateful I am.

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