A Bear Hug On Memorial Day

Memorial Day Service

“Today is not a day for barbecues and parties,” our Congressman bellowed at the podium. “Today is about reflecting on and honoring the service of our Veterans.”

As I looked around the crowd, I figured my Grandpa Jerry (“Papa”) was there smiling down on all of us. He always had such a tough time seeing our country celebrate Memorial Day with a “day off” or getting great deals at mall department stores.

Papa and I occasionally attended Memorial Day services together. During the holiday, he was always pensive, thoughtful, and full of somber reflection. You can’t blame a guy for being serious; he was in the Army and endured some of the worst of World War II in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific. He earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, and it was rare that he’d share stories from his horrific battle days. When asking him a question, he’d usually respond with: “I just can’t talk about it.”

We kids always wanted to hear the story about why he walked with a limp. I do remember Papa recounting how he was wounded by shrapnel, then sent home on a hospital ship in a full body cast. He was told that if anything happened to the ship, they wouldn’t be able to save him. The few other stories I did hear were outside of the bounds of any reality I can even dare to imagine. So to honor his memory, I know he’d prefer me to not talk about it now.

Michelle Stimpson & Grandpa

This morning’s service at the park was picture-perfect with the bright sunshine beaming down through the towering cottonwood trees. From the stage, the community band played a variety of patriotic tunes, and guest speakers offered up prayers and powerful addresses.

My favorite part of the morning was when we were asked to shake the hand of a veteran. I knew exactly who I wanted to target: The three cute elderly men behind me in full uniform who would soon be doing the gun salute. I went down the line to each of them and with lingering eye contact, I shared a deep and heartfelt “Thank you.” When I told the last guy in the row that I’d like to shake his hand, he flashed me a huge smile and said, “Well I’d like more than that!” He opened his arms wide to grab me and gave me a gigantic and tight bear hug and said in my ear, “Love ya.” I told him I loved him, too.

With that, my day was complete.

Memorial Day Gun Salute

As soon as I got home I called my Grandpa Roland to thank him, too, for his years of service. He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II where he took part in the Okinawa Campaign as an amphibious craft flag officer. Our family has been fortunate through the years to hear his first-hand accounts of the war. Pretty tough (impossible, actually) for someone like me to come close to comprehending what he experienced back in those days. He always talks about how his heart ached being away from his “pride and joy,” his girlfriend (my Grandma Doris), in those three long years where 1,184 letters changed hands between the two of them.

Michelle Stimpson & Grandpa

My two grandpas sacrificed a piece of their life to defend my freedom.

What a poignant reminder for me to know that I am free to follow my joy today because of men and women who fought, and continue to fight, for me. So on this Memorial Day, I pause and give thanks; and honor them with the deepest respect.

Whose service are you honoring today?

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12 Responses to “A Bear Hug On Memorial Day”

  • I appreciate you taking the time to honor veterans in this way. People like you, who take the time to share appreciation for the work and sacrifice of others, make this world a happier, brighter place!

  • Janice says:

    When I worked as a dental hygienist (for 15 years!), there was always great conversation with veterans. They were definitely a group of their own and I loved them. I still do. I retell their stories like they’re my own.

  • Connie Nelson says:

    Since 2003, I have gone with my “then boyfriend – now husband” to Fort Snelling, every Memorial weekend. His father is buried there. I was honored that he allowed me to attend with him as the pain was still so deep in the beginning for him – his father passed in 2002. To lose a parent, is one of the worst pains one can feel and then to attend a place so magnificent,impacts the heart even more. I have a family of veterans and was raised with the importance they all bring to me, as well as the importance I must teach my children. I call those who have fought during the Memorial day weekend and thank them for allowing my children to grow with the freedom they fought so hard for. My mom taught me this importance….and I will forever be greatful for that specific lesson.
    I love your article Michelle. Hug and THANK a veteran, it will leave a forever impression!

  • @ Happiness and Wisdom: Thank you and thanks for reading and commenting!

    @ Janice: I can only imagine all the great stories you heard through the years…and cool that you pass them along! We all need to keep those stories alive.

    @ Connie: How neat that you and your husband can share in that powerful experience together and honor his father. Those veterans in your family are blessed to have your love and support, Connie. Your mom taught you well! Be sure to read my friend Liv’s article–you will love it: http://www.choosingbeauty.com/2010/05/053110-part-2-choosing-to-thank-our.html

  • Rochelle Weber says:

    Thank you, dear one, for your prose. Once again, the tears roll down my cheeks, as I remember PaPa. This will be the first Memorial Day that I did not visit him at the grave site since his death. But, I honor him, with great pride, for all of the sacrifices he made both physically, and emotionally, to protect his country and those that he loved. He was riddled with emotional pain as he watched his buddies shot down around him. And often agonized over the fact that he was spared. He questioned God’s motives many times for keeping him alive, and knew that God must have had a specific plan for his existence. He was a strong man, with a vibrant personality, who loved life and lived it to the fullest. If you close your eyes and think of him, you can hear his contagious laughter!!!

    Thank you to all veterans, living and fallen, who gave their life to protect all of ours. We are eternally grateful.

  • What a wonderful essay, Michelle. So heartfelt, so right on. My Baba served in World War II and we rarely heard stories either – I just can’t imagine the things they saw and had to do at such a young age. My cousin is in Afghanistan right now – away from his wife and young kids for a year (again). The sacrifices these people make to serve our country…even if they don’t agree politically with the agenda or mission…is amazing to me.

  • @ Rochelle: Thank you for the sweet comment and thoughts about Papa. Yes, when I close my eyes I can definitely hear his laughter!

    @ Liv: I didn’t realize your Baba was in WWII also. It is amazing to me, too, what they all endured. I will keep your cousin in my thoughts; I cannot imagine for a moment being away from “home” and “family” for that amount of time. Wow.

  • Tunie says:

    Moving. Beautiful. Thanks, Michelle.

  • Connie says:

    Another tear jerker for me! Well done Michelle!

  • @ Tunie & Connie: Thank you, as always, for being here, reading the posts, and for sharing your thoughts. Glad to know you liked the article. :)

  • Tracie says:

    Thank you! You have opened my heart with a new sense of gratitude for all those who serve and who have served. Love you

  • @ Tracie: Thank you. You and I are going through the journey together, as my heart has recently opened with a new sense of gratitude, too. Appreciate your comment and love you back. :)

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

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