UNITED STATES─It is hard to fathom that we only take one day out of the 364 days we have in the year to pay our tribute and gratitude to the people who risked their lives for us to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted. Yes, Monday, November 11, 2019, we celebrated Veteran’s Day. It is a day that Americans pay tribute to the men and women who served the country, but I felt some sort of way about the holiday for the first time in a long time.

Why is it ONLY this one day that we show appreciation? I mean there are so many Americans who would run and even travel to another country to prevent from being drafted to fight in the war or to sign up to serve our country. Is the best we can do is have one calendar day out of the year to show that we care? It just feels like a major cheat, not to mention the fact that most offerings for the day involved restaurants offering free meals and many retailers offering discounts to veterans (in honesty those discounts were to draw in consumers).

I guess my perception of the holiday has vastly changed, as a direct result of finally having a conversation with my grandfather who is a veteran himself. I was always cautious about wanting to start up a conversation with him about his time serving in World War II. Yes, my grandfather is a veteran who fought in that war, so he’s of an old age, and there are not many veterans still alive who served in that war that totally changed our country as we know.

My biggest fear was always stirring up potentially bad memories that maybe he did not want to recall. You never know if you’re traveling down a dicey path so it’s important to be aware of what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to. What baffled me more than anything was how sharp his memory was. I mean this guy is 97 and still as sharp with his memory than someone my age. I had no idea he served as a cook before he actually went into battle. As long as I can remember, I can’t recall one time seeing my grandfather in the kitchen preparing a dish, but the guy can cook and the tales he shared of his cooking techniques makes me question if my skills are more genetic than actual skill.

On top of that, I totally understand his refusal to EVER fly in an airplane. Why? He was thrown from an airplane while having to go to battle. He talked about his time in the waters, preparing for utter mayhem that was unleashed on unsuspecting soldiers. I recall that scene from the Steven Spielberg flick “Saving Private Ryan.” It was brutal and bloody to watch, and to think I was watching a movie, when my grandfather, the great hero that he is, was in the actual midst of that chaos and he survived, it left me speechless.

He described the bloodshed, the bullets, the fear and just the macabre that was riddled all over that beach. I was speechless, his memory of detail of that day was haunting. He also discussed with me how the American soldiers had to sleep in dugouts while fighting, and how the race relations between White and Black soldiers were bad. They couldn’t sleep next to each other, and he explained how Blacks were seen as inferior even though they were fighting the same war as their counterparts. I think that is something that really angered my grandfather and still does to this day.

This person risked his life for this country, and to be treated any different because of his race is unacceptable. It does feel at times African-Americans don’t get the credit they deserve as war veterans. The one thing that has constantly haunted me was wondering what kept my grandfather fighting and what gave him hope that he would return home. I now know the answer: my grandmother. Bless her soul as she passed away 3 years ago, but the love between my grandparents is unlike anything I have ever seen.

These two were married for 75 years, yes, you heard me correctly, 75 years. To this day, I still don’t know anyone who has been married that long. My grandfather had something to come home to and I think it was his love for my grandmother that propelled him to fight and ensure his survival to return back to her. That level of love ensured his survival in my opinion and he did all in his power to return to her. It’s an amazing love story and has totally convinced me that it is indeed a tale that I have to craft one day to show my gratitude to my grandfather and to ensure HIS STORY is told and with respect in a way that no one else can tell.

I know I don’t always say this to my grandfather, but I want him to know he is a true hero in my eyes and the guy who deserves accolades galore for the sacrifices he made for this country. Your service, your commitment is appreciated and you have no idea how appreciative I am for all that you do. I understand your personality and behavior so much more after having a heart-to-heart talk that I was always afraid to have, but I am so glad to open those doors to a dialogue that I have always wanted to have.