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Wars and Grandpas

This weekend, we’ve seen a lot of messages and posts, reminding us Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. It has also become a nice, long weekend to spend time with the family, and to have barbecues and beach days (assuming you’re not dodging tornadoes). There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

This particular holiday always makes me reflect on my grandfather, Donald Grant Pope. He grew up as a poor, small-town kid from Oklahoma, and was one of the hardest working men I ever knew. He was a physically strong, stoic man, who loved Merle Haggard and John Wayne movies. His hobby was going out into the desert and looking for antique bottles and coins. He found plenty of them. He was an avid hunter, and we almost always had some type of game animal in the refrigerator, whether it was deer, quail, or just rabbit. He enjoyed having a few beers after work some days, which changed his personality from quiet and serious, to garrulous and outgoing (I had to get it from somewhere).

This was the man who raised my little sister and me from the time I was 5-years old, until I left home at 16. She was three when we started living with our grandparents. He wasn’t an easy-going man by any means. He was strict and tough, but never abusive. My friends used to enjoy the fact if I asked him permission to do something, I could interpret his grunts to mean yes or no. He was a man of few words. My grandmother on the other hand was over-the-top when it came to loving and worrying about her kids (grandkids). It takes a big heart to take on two toddlers for life, after already raising your own kids and being in your 50s. That was who they were.

“Buster” (that was his nickname), was in the U.S. Army, in an infantry division during WWII. He was sent to Europe and told me his unit marched under the Eiffel Tower. He was in the European Theater for about a year, before he was wounded by shrapnel during a firefight with Nazis. He was sent to a field hospital, then back home with a Purple Heart. He wasn’t killed while serving in the Armed Forces, but he definitely made his contribution to the war. He passed away during complications from a surgery in his 70s.

My father was in the Navy during the Vietnam era and served in that theater on destroyers. I followed in his footsteps and spent 26 years in the Navy as a journalist and public relations person. Now, my son is in as well, and is currently serving on board the USS Carl Vinson in Washington. He rolls his eyes when I call him a “son of a son of a sailor”. I only point this out because I think spending time in the military gives a person much more perspective on what this type of service actually entails, and we’ve all lost friends in past conflicts, and those going on now. Even living in a different country, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are a cause for reflection.

So, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend, and I hope you treasure these long weekends with your families and friends. We may be a little fractured right now as a country, but we’re still Americans, and as long as we exist, there will always be brave men and women, willing to lay down their lives to keep us safe and secure back home. Think about them once in a while.

On a lighter note, if you want to try a refreshing beverage on a hot, summer day, give this a shot: mix one bottle of sweet white wine (maybe a Riesling), a bottle of peach-flavored champagne, and one cup of brandy into a large pitcher. Use frozen peach slices instead of ice, and keep it chilled. It’s tasty, but has a kick! Happy Memorial Day!