In April 1945, a 20 year old mother received a message that undoubtedly sent her to her knees. A hand delivered telegram informed her that her husband was injured in combat in Germany during World War II. The message didn’t provide any specific details (I’m sure that only added to her worrying), but merely said to send mail to his previous address until a new one was received. I can only imagine her questions. What happened? How bad is it? Will he make it home? Have I spoken to the love of my life for the last time?
That injured soldier was my grandfather, Randall, and it would be several weeks before my grandmother, Louise, would have those questions answered. In fact, that would be the last telegram she received about him.
Randall was injured when his platoon took on an air attack. An explosion happened about 30 yards away, most likely from a bomb, sending him to the ground and later the hospital, where he would remain until the end of the war. He suffered a severe concussion, bumps, and bruises but was otherwise unharmed. It was an absolute miracle! He was literally steps away from losing his life. BUT… he came home. He healed. His family grew (otherwise I wouldn’t be here) and PaPa, as we call him, has been able to observe every Memorial Day since it became a federal holiday in 1971.
As the gentle, humble man that he is, he would tell you that Memorial Day is not at all about him. And, he’s right… because he made it back. Many of his comrades and those thereafter did not. They are why we pause, take a day off work, and remember. Memorial Day celebrates the ones who gave their life for our freedoms.
While my grandmother is in Heaven now, Randall is still kickin’ at 94. This Memorial Day, you might find him at a cookout with his family, working in his garden, or just riding the tractor with one of his great-grandchildren. Don’t let that fool you though. He hasn’t forgotten how close he was to being the reason for this holiday.