“I remember the men who came back for World War II. I was just a boy, mind you, being born just before the war started, but my uncles, their friends, and my dad all made it home.”
I looked at my beautiful granddaughter with her bright clear shining blue eyes and her short blonde hair. She was a beautiful combination of her mother and her father. She was also a history major at the local university and was now sitting here picking at the memories of her happy old grandfather.
We were sitting on a long white bench in the middle of a well-tended garden. Roses, flowers, bright green hedges and bushes reminded one of an order in nature and the universe.
“I can’t say," I continued, “if they came back changed as I was way too young to know or remember them from before. I was still pretty young to understand much when they did come home. I do remember the conversations around the kitchen table while they were playing Pinochle and drinking lots of beer.”
I paused a few moments to glance at her. She was staring off in the distance, eyes fixed and glazed over, her mind quiet, but I knew she was listening to every word.
“They went to the war to fight the enemy, sure, but more importantly they went for the future and the safety of their children. You see most of them came from the farms and the country, but moved to the cities to work in the factories. They wanted a better more secure future for their kids and family then they felt they had on the farm.”
I knew my gaze now was also fixed and far away. I was seeing them again around the table smoking, talking, drinking, and shuffling the cards.
“They saw a lot of men die in the war, their friends, neighbors that joined with them, kids they knew from school. A lot of them never made it home. They never did talk all that much about them or the war, but they knew deep down in their heart that what they all had done was right. Especially those that didn’t make it back home. I know it!”
Her eyes cleared then and she looked up at me. “Do you think it’s the same with this stupid damn war in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
I didn’t hesitate. “I do,” I answered, firmly putting my arm around her shoulders and pulling her close.
“God has a special place in his heart for those young soldiers that die fighting what is wrong and evil. He knows that they died giving their lives for others that they might live in a better world. Greater love than this has no man!”
We sat silent for a few long moments and then I slowly stood and held out my hand to her.
“We need to get inside the funeral home sweetheart. All your dad’s buddies will be there in full dress uniform to honor and stand guard over him. I, for one, want to stand tall and proud that my son, your father, died fighting in that stupid damn war for what was right and for us.”
Together we left the garden, grandfather and granddaughter, years apart in age, but of one heart.
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