Monday, November 11, 2013

"Let Me Show You Something"

        It was just a box – a simple velvet lined box.  It had been pulled in and out of Paw Paw’s dresser drawer so many times that it was a bit scuffed and tattered – much like him and every other person who served along side of him.  What was in that little box?  It was Paw Paw’s greatest treasure, his most vivid memory and symbol of something larger than what the young boy those many years ago could comprehend, and what the elderly gentlemen proudly displaying it could adequately express.  However, the look in his eyes each time he held that box in his calloused wrinkled hand, told the story magnificently.  Every time we went to visit my grandparents, we knew that at any given moment, Paw Paw would retreat into a world of memories, walk into the bedroom, open a dresser drawer and come back with his treasure – Paw Paw’s Purple Heart. 

All you had to do was take a moment to sit still in his lap or sit at his feet and before long, the stories would roll off his tongue, then the light would begin to sparkle in his eyes as he would say “let me show you something.”  Off he would go down the hall, and then in a flash, be back beaming from ear to ear with that velvet lined box.  Slowly, he would open the box and release the sound of gunfire, the dampness of trenches and the excitement and fear on the face of a mere child who found himself across a huge ocean listening to the chatter of languages he was never even able to read. Paw Paw had quit school in the 3rd grade due to a family tragedy that took both his parents, so he was not even able to read anything in English nonetheless a foreign language.  One line he learned overseas seemed forever stuck in his brain - comme ci comme ├ža.”  We knew each time we spent a few moments with Paw Paw, that we needed to ask him how he was doing.  This gave him that rare opportunity to respond in a foreign language… “just so-so” he would say in French with his own delightful mountain man dialect.

Can you imagine what it felt like to be an orphan of sorts shipped across the ocean and coming face to face with “death?”  Like so many young boys during this time, Paw Paw also lied about his age to have the chance to do something significant with his life and for his country.  At the ripe old age of sixteen, Paw Paw became a “man” in World War I.  The truth be told, from that time until now, there have been scores of boys who left home as a son, a brother, a cousin, a neighbor, a classmate or playmate yet when it was time to return, in their place a man walked down that country road home, or that city sidewalk through town.  Some of them never got to walk that road home.  Some of them rolled their way, while others were sent back in another velvet lined box and carried “home” by the angels. 

Today, as I think of Paw Paw’s Purple Heart, I think of the hearts of the scores of young men and now women who give everything they have to offer with no expectation of anything in return, simply because of the sound of “freedom’s song” ringing in their ears.  I wish I could sit with each of them like we did Paw Paw through the years and hear their story, see their symbol of freedom, experience the fear and excitement and feel the sense of pride and honor that radiates from the light in each of their eyes.  Since I can’t sit with each of them, I will do what I can to “pay forward” words of hope and encouragement, determination and perseverance - fanning the flame of freedom.  May we never allow the song of freedom fade from our ears or the story of liberty slip from our hearts and souls.  I, for one, do not want their sacrifices to be in vain.  I refuse to bow down to tyranny or give in to selfish oppressors who want to smother our pride and strip away our dignity one liberty at a time.  Thank you, Veterans for reminding us each day what it means to be free and what it takes to stay free.  God Bless America!!!!!  

Editor's Note:  I want to also express my gratitude to Dad who served in the Air Force.  I am forever grateful for him, for all the others in our family who have proudly served our country, and to Paw Paw.  What an honor to be the recipient of freedom!

                                            Paw Paw Rich