My grandfather died nearly six years ago.
He was still an imposing figure - tall and broad-shouldered with a rich voice and an ability to draw you into a conversation that spanned his wide intellect.
He knew vast amounts of information - always provided with a flourish and a story. Of particular interest to him was history. And he shared his own. To a point.
See, it was his-story.My grandfather's memories contained images that you find in schoolbooks, in grainy archival news footage, and in black and white on old newspapers.
My grandfather lived through war.
Those things he found difficult to speak of were etched and scarred into a generation of Americans.
I found it hard to relate.
Until someone attacked my country on my soil.
And my world felt suddenly and terrifyingly not safe.
For me, it was September 11, 2001.
For him, it was December 7, 1941.
He had enlisted earlier that year, but likely never dreamed where this would send him.
This man saw with his own eyes
in gusts of wind
in thunderous noise
and felt with his own being
the weapon in his hands
the sand under his feet
the pounding in his ears
The first flag on Iwo Jima went up in front of him as he scrambled with the rare few who had survived.
He saw the bloodiest fighting at Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands - the turning point of a war that had mobilized the world.
Islanders welcomed him as he waded to shore during the Liberation of Guam.
I am in awe of the stories that this man held in his memories.
He returned home to the love of his life and they together raised their six children.
In the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
And I am so glad,
he was mine.