Every family has a list of things they are proud of. As a parent, it is one of the things that you teach your children, family pride, that your surname means something more than it’s etymological meaning. In our family, we strive to be known for integrity and responsibility. My husband and I believe that you always leave a place better than you found it. We are people of faith who value education, the arts, and athletics. We are in some sense of the word Renaissance men and hope to raise our children to be so too.
My maiden surname is much the same. I associate it with hard work and integrity. My father’s family too were people of faith who valued education, the arts, and athletics. My grandfather, Pappy as we called him, had the highest IQ in the county when he was in high school. He played football and baseball. He fought in WWII in Operation Torch and then worked his way from Italy to Germany. He was offered a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and turned down the on-the-road lifestyle to be a family man and work on the railroad with his father. He and his wife, a former Army nurse, raised three children. They were raised in a house of faith and attended a United Methodist Church. They grew up valuing their education, music, and sports. The oldest went into the Army. One went into insurance, is an active member of a community band, and is a pastor’s wife. The youngest, my father, went to college and worked in the business world for years. They all sing. They all enjoy sports. And they are all life-long learners. It’s good legacy to leave behind.
When I was 11 or 12, Pappy had a stroke and he ceased to be what I knew, though he lived for many years beyond that. What I remember of him are the few facts I shared above and a few personal things. Pappy had passive-aggressive silent confrontations with visitors and his wife over the color balance on the TV. There were times when Johnny Carson was orange. And when someone would leave the room, the color would change again. He would play with us in the ocean at their beach house. Nanny would help us find shells and shark teeth, but Pappy was the one who would jump in the water with us. But what I remember the most is that Pappy always scooped us ice cream. That simple act was a clear indication to me that he loved us. And when my grandmother passed away, one of the things I took from her house was that ice cream scoop. And I still use it today with my children, and when I do, I am reminded of that honorable legacy that he left behind and his love for his children and grandchildren.
And then came a conversation with my father last night. My sister is interested in family genealogy and my brother in WWII. They began asking questions about Pappy and his service. This prompted my parents and my sister to open the two suitcases they rescued from Nanny’s apartment after her death. They are full of pictures and what not. Inside they found Pappy’s bars, papers, and his Bronze Star. Pappy enlisted one month to the day after Pearl Harbor. He was a Sergeant (three times really) in charge of a 40mm Bofors Automatic M1, an anti-aircraft gun, in D Company of the 431st Battalion. They also manned 50 Caliber Machine Guns for cover fire. He was demoted twice and then restored to Sergeant within a month twice–once because some of his men fell asleep while on duty and once for “cold-cocking” a Lieutenant. My dad figures he was a lot like Lt. Dyke in Band of Brothers, because Pappy should have been in serious trouble for that and he got a slap on the wrist. They also found a small book written about Pappy’s Battalion and the real reason he earned his Bronze Star. The story Pappy told his children at the dinner table was that he and his men stumbled upon an unoccupied city and claimed it for the Allies. The story in the book is quite different and my uncle was able to fill in the blanks based on his conversations with Pappy’s men. He and his men were attached to the 42nd Infantry as they moved across southern Germany in the Spring of 1945.
“Gun Section 6 of Company D had the unusual experience of becoming separated from the rest of its convoy, crossing the Main River, then going South along the southern bank into a town not yet taken. They were stopped by a group of engineers from winning the war single handed.”
The town was apparently heavily occupied, including two Tiger tanks. They joined forces with engineers, who we assume had some explosives, and secured the town by themselves.
I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I can tell you that the way I feel about my grandfather is proud, more so than ever before! And as I spoke with my father last night, I could tell his appreciation for his father is greater and filled with family pride.
You may or may not have a war hero in your family. But I dare say, you too have something that your family is proud of and something that you stand for. I’m not saying that your family or mine is perfect. We all fall short of our ideal from time to time. But it’s that desire to stand for something, the drive to get back up and push forward, that we cling to!
Those who claim the name Christian also have a family with a proud heritage. And while we always fall short of the ideal that Christ put before us. We too must continue to stand for His love in this world. Take pride in that and love one another!