My paternal grandfather never talked about his experiences serving in World War II. I do know that he repaired radios in the African theater, and made it into Italy, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. It wasn’t something he reminisced about or gloried in. He even refused any military honors at his funeral a few years ago. For my grandfather, the war was something in his past, and while he was proud of his service, he just as soon it stayed there.
(My maternal grandfather also served in the war, in the Pacific, but he died well before I was born.)
Similarly my grandfather never talked much about his faith, but his actions spoke clearly. We always started meals with a prayer, family reunions usually began with a Mass, and his house sported a number of old-fashioned religious paintings and plaques. Even after my grandmother got sick he would still drive her to Mass every Sunday, pushing her wheelchair into church and holding her hand during the service.
By the time I was born my grandfather was already retired but he still volunteered around his parish doing odd jobs: fixing the AC, clearing fallen tree limbs, cutting the grass. The latter I even helped out with when I was older, and while the parish paid me well for my efforts, I never saw my grandfather take a check for his work. Today the parish shed where we kept the rakes and others tools has a small plaque in it dedicated to his memory.
My grandfather’s faith was a strong influence on the family. His three sons all had strong faith lives, and even today the vast majority of his grandchildren practice the Catholic faith — a pretty remarkable feat when you consider current trends among young adults. I am grateful for the example of simple faith and humble service he gave me, and today I remember him and all the veterns who have safeguarded our freedoms over the years.
May the love we share in the Eucharist, heavenly Father,
flow in rich blessing throughout our land
and by your grace may we as a nation
place our trust in you
and seek to do your will.
Through Christ our Lord.
Adapted from the Mass for Independence Day; © 2010 International Committee on English in the Liturgy