When I was a small boy my family use to spend the summers at grandma’s house. Many days I would be left with my grandma as my dad went to work and my mother would visit her sisters and friends. There was a second floor with several bedrooms, a bathroom, a wide hallway that led to a big room with a round dinning table and a couple chairs. There was also this awesome porch made up of all windows that looked out over the backyard.
In the wide hall way was some old dressers. In these dresser drawers were a lot of old personal relics from my grandfather, who was veteran of world war I, and my uncles who served and miraculously all came home from world war II. I think my grandfather had encouraged my uncles to serve as cooks because I think all of them but one served as cooks and the one served as a mechanic. There were a couple old metal helments that belonged to my grandfather, and a bunch of medals that belonged to my grandfather and my uncles.
I recall the most amazing photograph of my grandfather’s unit that hung on the outside wall of the upstairs hallway between a large dresser and a window. I often looked at the photograph, but never really knew which one was my grandfather. Eventhough he had come home from combat in Europe, he had been exposed to mustard gas and it caused him extreme health issues the rest of his short lived life. He spent a lot of time in the veteran’s hospital in Chicago and was restricted to bed when he finally came home to live out the final days of his life. He died when my father was only eleven years old, so I never had the privilege to meet him or know him. I recall my grandmother sharing some stories about how they met and how she cared for him when he was home. He was her whole life and when he died a big piece of her died too.
As a child I never understood the value of those treasures stored away in the unsecured vaults of time, I would put the helment on and pretend I was a soldier not knowing the sacrifice these men had made to provide me with the security I took for granted everyday living a carefree life at grandma’s house during the summer.
I would take a medal I found in a dresser drawer and ask grandma what it was. She never knew what it had been awarded for, but she always knew which son it belonged to. I wish the medals and the old steel helments could have talked to me and told me the things they had been through. Then maybe I would not be so forgetful on memorial day of all that my grandfather and uncles had done for me and this amazing country where we enjoy freedom and liberty under the banner of the red, white and blue.