Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day - Thinking of My Almost Grandfather

My Grandfather the glider pilot shortly before he left for Korea
My Grandfather who served in the 11th Airborne - Picture taken in 1950
My uncle who earned his Purple Heart on D-Day at Normandy when the transport he was riding to the beach took a hit killing the person next to him and knocking him into the water.

Both my grandfathers were Army and for both of them World War 2 ended just in time.  One was a paratrooper on the way to Japan for the invasion.  The other was training to be a glider pilot.  Neither jobs have the best odds for survival.  The glider pilot was actually on the way to the front lines in Korea when he was pulled over to a more administrative position where they were only sometimes being shot at versus always being shot at.  It's really and truly amazing that I'm here at all considering they both seemed to be drawn to the most dangerous things they could possibly do.

But in particular Memorial Day always makes me think of another man.  A man I never met and am
in no way related to but is just as real and just as much a part of me as my paratrooper grandfather who died before I was born.  His name was Arthur and he was my grandmother's first husband.

He was born in 1916 in a little town in Georgia. Like most farming families he came from a large family and was the 2nd oldest boy.  At some point before 1940 he moved to another small town in Georgia that had a cotton mill and met and married my grandmother.  They moved to another small town but this time in Alabama where he managed a movie theater and he and my grandmother used to watch movies after the theater closed just the two of them.  In 1943 he left that little town in Alabama, left his wife and his infant daughter and found himself in North Africa.  I can't imagine what that must have seemed like to him.  His biggest move before then was a move of maybe 200 miles and now here he is across an ocean and on a completely different continent.  I don't know if he was drafted or enlisted due to patriotism or hoping to provide financial stability for his family.  I do know he was a nice man, a man who was so skinny my grandmother used to tease him she weighed more than him (and she was by no means a big person), a man who loved movies, a man who loved his wife and was enchanted with his baby daughter and a man who suddenly finds himself in North Africa and then in some of the worst fighting in Italy.  He died in Italy.  My grandmother had the bible that he had in his shirt pocket on that day tucked in among her pictures and other mementos.  I don't know if I'd have wanted to keep that but I can understand how difficult it must have been to believe he was really gone and how you might want a piece from that day to hold onto.  His daughter is gone now too - last year to cancer but his granddaughter is watching her children, his great-grandchildren, go to college and the oldest has his last name as her middle name.

My grandmother went on to remarry and have several more children and bunches of grandchildren.  We're not related to Arthur but we know him.  When my cousin went to Italy she found his grave.  One of my most vivid childhood memories is looking for his name on the list of fallen soldiers from Alabama on the U.S.S. Alabama.

So on  Memorial Day I always think about Arthur and I wonder what that farm boy from Georgia must have thought.  I think about Arthur and the thousands like him that have gone and come home or not come home and I am grateful.
I have no picture of Arthur but this is my grandmother shortly after she remarried.


  1. What a beautiful post! One of my grandfathers was in the Pacific during World War II and my father was a Vietnam War Veteran. Fortunately, both came home and led full lives before they died. There will always be a special place in my heart for those who served their country, including and especially those who lost their lives for it.

    1. Thanks. I definitely have always had a special place in my heart for military as well and 1 grandfather was career Army so it was always a presence. Paul is talking about going into the Army in some way or other after he graduates though my husband and I are insisting he goes in with a college degree vs just enlisting. It makes it more real that all those men and women who went off were people and many of them just kids.