Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What a red-letter day!

So yesterday was pretty awesome. Work was smooth, I was feeling better, and then I had good news in pretty much all areas of my life. There was news on the personal front (with the house deal), the professional front (which I'm not discussing yet), and on the family front too (which I'm gonna talk about now).
Pic stolen from my brilliant photographer cousin Eric Conner

My papaw is one of the 30 remaining men from his division in World War II. His division, the 95th Infantry, received a lot of recognition and rewards, not from our own country, but from France. You see his division was responsible for liberating and defending the city of Metz, France, which was, at that time, an important military holding for Germany for both political and historical reasons and earned them the nickname "The Iron Men of Metz." The 95th, along with other divisions, were involved in the Battle of Metz where they were led by General Patton. After France, they went on into Germany where they were involved in liberating the concentration camps, something that haunted Papaw for many years. In the end, his division lost over 10,000 men in World War II.

As a kid, Papaw's war experience was something that was whispered about and told as a secret. We often went to reunions of his war buddies and all of their families, but the true battles were rarely discussed. I heard the stories of my incredibly mischievous Papaw liberating and frying chickens, which weren't hard to imagine at all, or how he managed to arrange for two of his three enlisted brothers to all meet up in Germany (Papaw had four brothers, three of which fought in WWII, and all came home safe). But I never heard the horrors, I was protected from that. As I grew up, more details leaked out and my Papaw grew to be a hero in my eyes. Sometimes I made him more of a legend than he really was, such as when I was in junior high and just convinced that he barely missed saving Anne Frank (yes I was clearly a voracious reader with an imagination to match). But I was always told not to ask him about his service and, even though I didn't understand, I obeyed.

As Papaw aged, he gradually stopped going to the division's yearly reunion saying it was just too depressing to see less and less of them there as deaths became more common. But the bond that they shared was a tight one. And, next week, the 30 remaining men were invited to DC where they will be receiving an award from the French Embassy for their service.

I'm very proud of Papaw, and all the men just like him.

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