Honoring Veterans Nov. 11 will always be a sense of pride for me. I believe those who served our country need to be honored all the time but having a day set aside is the perfect reminder as people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.
I always remember my grandfather, James “Mac” Rodgers on this day. He served during World War II and while he is no longer with us, I always want to be sure he is remembered for his service.
In May, I wrote a similarly themed column for Memorial Day, but I feel it is worth mentioning again all that he did during his time in service. Grandpa Rodgers served in the United States Army Air Forces. He volunteered to serve as soon as Pearl Harbor was attacked. He entered pilot school in 1942. He washed out of pilot training, but he was then sent to gunnery school and next trained as a radio operator.
He was deployed overseas in 1944, originally stationed in England. As the war progressed, the base was moved to France. He was the radio operator in a B-26 bomber. He flew in 29 bombing missions over Germany. He advanced to the rank of Tech Sergeant.
During the Battle of the Bulge, German forces came within 15 miles of his air base. They took the waist guns out of the bombers to set up around the perimeter of the base should the Germans get closer.
Being a radio operator was hard on Grandpa’s hearing. His planes were guided by beacons and he had to listen for the signal. Of course, the Germans did everything they could to jam the signal. So most of the time, grandpa listened to a lot of static through his headsets as he helped guide the plane home. By the time he was discharged from the Army, he could no longer hear a watch tick, but he wasn’t about to complain. He figured there were others coming back who had it a lot worse during the war, and some didn’t come back at all..
I don’t remember grandpa talking about the war much. He was happy to serve his country and was a proud American for his whole life. I remember finding an old trunk in a closet at his house. It was full of items from his army days with battlefield ribbons, etc. as well as a ton of photos of Grandpa during his time overseas. It was fascinating to look through all of his Army memoirs. It was not organized but at least it was all in one place. His Army uniform hung in that closet as well.
As Grandpa got older, he started to tell more stories. There are so many stories from the war he could have shared, however, we lost him in 2006. One of the last memories I have with him is when he was telling stories of his time overseas in places like France and Belgium.
He would have been 103 this year, and while he could have been with us, I feel like Grandpa went out still of sound body and mind. He was still climbing peach trees at the age of 89 and unfortunately a fall from one of those trees set in motion events that would lead to his death. He had a subdural hematoma he was never able to fully recover from. But I will always remember the spring of 2006, as he had recovered enough to still plant one last garden before the bleeding around his brain returned.
So as I thought of Grandpa this Wednesday, I knew he was watching over us with grandma by his side. I miss him every day and pray I get to see him in heaven some day.
Happy Veterans Day to all of those who put their lives on the line to serve the country we all love. God bless you and God bless America.
Contact Pam Pratt at email@example.com