Highlighting Memories this Memorial Day

My Grandpa died in March of this year.  He was in the Navy as a late teen, having lied about his age to get in early.  He was stationed in the Pacific War and the Korean War, he was your James Dean/Jack Palace type of soldier that would rather go AWOL for a party weekend, start a fight instead of get promoted, or guard the nurses cabins on hot nights.  He had tattoos of women’s names, most notably “Gert” (who is not my grandmother, mind you), which I never saw until he was in the hospital in February, when he made jokes about how skinny his legs were (“who the [censored]’s legs are those?”).  It’s memorial day, and I can’t stop thinking about him.

I have a few beloved friends who were in the Marines and the Army, and I am always fascinated by their stories – of fear, triumph, hard work, friendships, camaraderie, pranks, death, tradition, heroes, and politics.

Today on Reddit I was pleased to come across this AMA from an amazing granddaughter (NOT me, btw), helping to share the life of her grandfather (AMA stands for ‘Ask Me Anything’):

wCCsyTkIn honor of memorial day, I am an 88 year old WW2 aerial photographer/vet (self.IAmA)

by ilovemypapa

My granddaughter will be asking me the questions and she will be quoting me word-for-word. I was 18 years old, from a family of 8 brothers. I was a photo recon and served in the South Pacific from 1943-1946. I was a receiver of a Purple Heart, when I was shot in the ear by the Japanese after I had been taking pictures of bases. I now am almost deaf in that ear. In Leyte, Phillipines, I lived in a village where I owned a pet monkey and took pictures of the locals. I was a part of the 8-Ballers, which was a photo reconnoissance squadron. I am very knowledgeable in cameras, planes, and other pieces of technology. I even have an iPad that I research on daily. In 2010, I took the Honor Flight, where I was sent to DC with fellow veterans to visit memorials and speak. My experiences from the war are some of the fondest memories I have, and I would love to answer any questions you have. I have great recollection of things and am open to anything you might wonder about.

I encourage you to read through the questions from the community, and the answers provided by this World War II Vet.  My grandfather has passed, and I miss him every single day.  I may not have his exact memories, I do have his stories.  I wish I had done this with him, like “ilovemypapa.”  What a great tribute, and shared experience.

One of my favorite passages is as follows (something straight out of a movie):

Now that I am in a nursing home, I think of all the compassionate and understanding people and many of my nurses are Filipinos. I think these people work in hospitals and medical centers because they truly care about others

Edit Although I am fully functional my wife had an accident a couple of years ago where her leg was amputated and she has a bad case of Parkinsons. In order to be with her I decided to live in the nursing home with her. She has full recollection of everything. I also have spinal stenosis from crouching in the airplanes and I had to have both knees replaced. It is difficult for me to walk. But I have my iPad and a TV in my room along with war memorabilia!

If you have a loved one that is a Vet, please take some time to listen, care, and appreciate what they experienced (good and bad).

Izzy Neis
Director of Digital Strategy & Engagement

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