Lessons from a Veteran


Growing up, I knew my grandfathers fought in World War II. Didn’t everyone’s Grandpa?

My grandfathers were two of the most amazing men I will ever know. They were strong yet fun. Compassionate yet firm. Everything a grandfather should be for their grandchild. I’m sure they weren’t perfect but to me, they were these pillars of strength.

Rarely, if ever, did we see our grandfathers cry. Men of that generation just didn’t do that.

Today, I’m writing about the one time I did see one of my grandfather’s cry.

I went to High School in Bedford County, Virginia. My grandfather moved to Bedford County not long after we did and I remember going over to his farm quite often. He was always at our house or we were at his. My timeline on when this actually happened is a bit foggy – as are a lot of things from my childhood – but I am pretty sure it happened while I was in high school.

Bedford County is home to the National D-Day Monument. Why? Because Bedford County suffered the highest loss per capita of ANY town or county in the United States on the Normandy Beaches. This was something Bedford County never forgot. We never forgot our fallen, those who so bravely gave their lives for our country, for our little hamlet.

I remember hearing about this play about D-Day in Bedford County. For some reason, I decided to invite my Grandfather to go with me. He, of course, agreed. Who says no to a granddaughter like me?

So we attended the play together. It focused on the reaction of the towns people at home in Bedford County. The telegrams and notifications that didn’t stop. The heartbreaking loss. The drive to be patriotic in an attempt to understand such a massive level of loss.

We sat together, my grandfather and I, in that darkened theatre, watching actors slowly unravel this massive day of tragedy.

Finally, it was over. The crowd clapped, stood, and there was a camaraderie felt that day.

It wasn’t until we got outside and looked at my grandfather that I noticed his tears.

He was covered in them.

My brave, strong, amazing Grandfather had tear-soaked cheeks.

He fumbled for his handkerchief and wiped them away, muttering something about allergies.

I remained quiet but I gave him a hug.

Not another word was spoken about those tears. We got in the car and he drove me home. I thanked him for going with me and he thanked me for inviting me.

I learned something that day.

I learned that it’s okay to feel. For the first time in years, I learned that yes, it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to let other people see you cry when something horribly tragic happens. Even if you try to blame them on allergies, tears are sometimes necessary. Tears happen. Even to old men.

So today, as you’re celebrating a day off work, remember the men and women who fought for us. Remember the men and women who ARE fighting for us. Remember their families and the monumental sacrifices which they have made so that we are able to continue to live free. Don’t ever forget. And if a tear happens to slide down your cheek while you’re remembering, it’s okay.

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