Today I learned that Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving in the countries armed forces. I always thought it was a day to remember all who had served at any point in the armed forces. For me, it’s always been a day to pause and remember my grandpa, who fought in World War II. Although he didn’t lose his life in that war, he did lose his leg from just above the knee and receive a purple heart. (He would have received two if he’d wanted to let them acknowledge the gun shot to his rear end, as well, but he chose to have a shred of dignity and save himself some embarrassment rather than receive a second purple heart.)
I always remember all of us grand kids being rather proud of him as he hopped around on his crutches with his one leg, just as good as anyone with two. At some point, he took some small crutches and cut them down smaller so we could hop around after him. We always thought we were doing pretty good until he put the crutches down and used his big powerful arms to swing himself up onto things. I don’t think any of us had the upper body strength to be able to copy him then. I’m sure I still don’t have it now.
When my grandma went to park in the handicapped parking space when we went shopping, we’d wonder why we were parking there – our grandpa wasn’t handicapped, he could get around just as well as anyone else out there. I think we made her feel guilty, so she tried to just find a parking spot closer in rather than use the handicapped sign on the car. Really, she should never have even worried about our opinion and gone ahead and parked in the handicapped spot. We were just really proud of our grandpa.
What I never realized then, was that my grandpa went through a stage of serious depression as he dealt with the loss of his leg after the war. We never saw that side of him. By the time we came along, he was such a solid rock of faith, uplifting to be around and determined not to let his lack of one leg slow him down.
He will always be my American war hero.