UNITED STATES—This Memorial Day was an interesting one for me because for the first time in a long time I reflected on the actual meaning of the holiday. For many Americans, we consider it the kick-off of summer and all things outdoors people. In addition to being outdoors, it is the start of grilling season for many Americans and those backyard barbeques. However, the actual purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Why did 2022 hit me harder than previous years? It was the first time it struck me, my grandfather who was a survivor of World War II was no longer with us. It was a tradition for us to travel to his home to celebrate the holiday with him. My grandfather was 99 and would have been 100 this year in March. However, he contracted COVID-19 in 2021 and died as a result.

It still pains me thinking my grandfather was less than 11 months from reaching a milestone of turning 100 and still being a living WWII veteran. That is a rarity people and something I’ve always known. He kept this old classic gun from the war on his nightstand. It was an old model and something that fascinated all his grandchildren, because he really never talked about his time in WWII.

My grandfather survived a war where so many lost their lives and the fact veterans from that era are still living today is small if not minute. I have not been back to his grave since his death because it has been way too painful for many members in the family. I know I think about him frequently, I guess the only solace that I receive is knowing that he has been reunited with my grandmother who died 5-6 years earlier and his son who was murdered back in the 1970s. There is still no closure in that cold case where as a reporter I want to dig into the murder, but I’m afraid of ruffling potential feathers with my family asking them to drug up memories that are quite painful to say the least.

Perhaps one day I will, but at the same time, I’m not sure just yet. With that said, I will never forget the one time my grandfather did share a bit about his time during WWII. I finally discovered why he never flew after the 1940s because he was literally tossed out of a plane and forced right into combat. Being in those cold waters on Normandy Beach and being caught off guard by the enemy who was firing lethal weaponry that maimed and killed so many people in his infantry.

I learned that my grandfather was quite the cook, but you would never know because growing up I never saw him do it. That was a chore my grandmother handled. He talked about how racism was more potent during WWII where Blacks weren’t allowed to converse or mingle with Whites during down time. They were still separated, even though they were in combat. It baffled my mind hearing that; even during war race was still an issue. They would converse while on the battlefield because it was all about life or death, but when they were sleeping in those dugouts at night, they weren’t supposed to be near one another.

It was absolutely crazy for me to hear that, I mean even in war, race was potent, but I would have never known that if my grandfather had not shared that tale with me America. It just tells you that wisdom doesn’t just come with age; it comes with speaking to people who have experienced things that you could only fathom people.

I could tell something about the war definitely haunted my grandfather, but he would never discuss. I don’t know if he killed anyone while on the battlefield, I’m sure he did and it is something that would haunt anyone America, but at the same time, what can we do to change those memories? We can’t people. How he survived he said he made a promise to my grandmother that he would return to her and that was a promise that he upheld. It was the power of love that pushed him to fight for survival, and thank God that he did because if not my father would NOT have been born which means I would not have been born as a result either people.

It is intriguing how in life you don’t really cherish the moments with loved ones while they lived in the flesh, you cherish those memories when they are no longer with us. Memorial Day 2022 made me realize how much I miss my grandfather and the family reunions we used to have each year, the last being in 2016 before my grandmother passed a few months later. Memorial Day is not just about cooking and eating. It is about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice so many of us can appreciate the freedoms we have that we didn’t have the courage to fight for. I honor all the soldiers and veterans out there with this column and people thank your vets it means a lot more to them then you know.