By Katie Kieffer
My favorite WWII sailor passed away in January. I was fortunate enough to share supper with him the night that he died. My Grandpa, Richard, taught me some important lessons through his example of service for our country. He gave me the passion and desire to write about the qualities that make America great. Today is Veteran’s Day, so I think it would be appropriate to share the wisdom of “Pops.”
We’ve all met veterans. The most undeniably attractive quality that U.S. veterans share is their patriotism. My grandpa tried to pass this patriotism on to me. In high school, I would sit in fascination as he would tell me stories of his experiences in World War II. I was amazed by his bravery and humility.
I recall one day when he said, “Katie, you’re generation is all about me, me, me.” I think he wanted me to understand that I had not lived through a war and I took some things for granted that he did not. He talked about the skills and values that his generation – the WWII generation – possessed that sometimes seemed lacking in the Gen Ys.
He impressed upon me that it’s easy to focus on your own personal and trivial needs when there’s nothing at stake. My grandpa and his shipmates faced daily stresses ranging from warding off kamikaze attacks to enduring the ship’s monotonous menu of creamed beef on toast, known as SOS: “Sh__ on a shingle.” Vets like my Grandpa Rick had little time to worry about themselves – their jobs, their goals, their fantasy football leagues, their cars, their friends, their pets, their favorite hangouts, their favorite designers. They were focused on one thing: Fighting for freedom.
Very few things in life are worth risking everything for. If veterans teach us just one thing – especially during the current political push for more government control over the lives of average American citizens – it is that a free life is a life worth living.
We can honor my grandpa and all veterans by fighting for freedom and being active citizens in our communities. We may not have the charge to go to war, but we are obliged to preserve and protect the freedom that veterans fought hard for.
I’d encourage you to find ways that you can reach out to the troops and veterans in your community. Lend them a hand. Listen to their stories. Here are some sites to help get you started: