Remembering on Memorial Day

I don't come from a military family. In four generations, just one of my close male relatives has been in battle. The rest were drafted so late in whatever war was on they were still training when it ended, or they got deferments of some kind, or they served in support positions. So, I only have one Memorial Day story to tell.
My mother's father was about twenty, well on his way to a successful career and already engaged to the woman who became my grandmother, when he was drafted into World War I. After basic training, the farm boy from Missouri found himself on the front lines in France. 
Some military logic linked his skill as a cornetist to communications, so he became a messenger, relaying information up and down the chain of command. This meant that, while most doughboys spent their days in trenches parallel to the enemy's, his job meant he traveled through the connecting trenches that ran at right angles to the battle line, open to enemy fire.
What he endured or did there, I don't know. He never spoke of it to anyone but possibly my grandmother and my father (they had no sons of their own). I do know he developed a massive case of ringworm and eventually spent a year in a military hospital recovering from the effects of mustard gas. After he was released, he played in the band that accompanied General Pershing on his "victory lap" though Europe and served as its Drum Major. 
He was lucky, in short. He made it home to Kansas City and picked up his life where he'd left off.
Except he brought back a full uniform with rifle and bayonet, but had lead poured down the barrel of the rifle so it could never be used again.
Except he gave up hunting and became an avid fisherman.
Except sometimes at night he would sit alone with a glass of whiskey and stare into the darkness.
He is the one I remember on Memorial Day -- a man who did his duty, shared a bit in the glory, and refused to ever fire a gun again.

Who do you think of most often on Memorial Day?

~~ Nancy Holland

Jake Carlyle, the hero of Owed: One Wedding Night, has a more personal trauma in his past, one he kept secret from his fiancée, Madison Ellsworth. When Madison comes back into his life three years after leaving him at the altar, Jake agrees to save her family business in exchange for the wedding night they never had, but he doesn't intend to tell Madison his secret -- or to fall in love with his wife.

During interviews, I've been asked numerous times who I'd like to spend time with if I could go back in time. . .

I could choose anyone. But every time I choose ...
This man. 
My father's father served in World War I.
He strung telegraph wire across the trenches in France and was wounded in battle.

Lovingly known to me as Poppie...he was the first of my grandparents to pass on. I was a junior in high school, working, busy...

He seemed a very private man. I never spent much one-on-one time with him, but heard lots of stories after he'd gone.

What a life he had!

I remember Saturday nights in front of his black and white television watching HEE HAW and WRESTLING. If it was Saturday...there wasn't anything else to watch. I remember bringing my Barbies over to play with my cousins (which I had plenty of) and waiting for my hand built couch and chair and table (11" sized for the Barbies). I still have my couch. And many years later when my grandmother passed, I was given a hand-made curio shelf. There are paint-stains close to the back that I can't bear to cover-up. It's part of their house and the memories.


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  1. I agree with BN100—really wonderful post, Nancy. The fact that your grandfather poured lead down the barrel of his rife so it could never be used again was incredibly moving to me. And I love the title of your new book: Owed: One Wedding Night. ;) Jillian

  2. Excellent memory of your grandfather, Nancy. Thanks for sharing with us today.

  3. Nancy, I'm very impressed with the way your grandfather assured his rifle would never be fired again.

  4. Thanks for stopping by bn100, Jillian, and Naomi! It's something that has stuck in my mind over the years.

  5. Thank you for sharing.

    My Grandfather also served during WWI. He also served during WWII as well.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Leo, Tammy, and Mary!

  7. Thank you for sharing the wonderful stories so moving!