I come from a long line of veterans. I can trace my family’s military involvement back to the Civil War, but I suspect we go back further than that. My great grandfather was in WWI, my grandfather in WWII, both my father and uncle were in Vietnam, and my cousin was in Iraq. I am both thankful and proud of these men- lucky to call them my own. But there is one whose story is so remarkable, it’s bone chilling.
My father’s dad, Elmer Brent Sturm, is one of the finest men who has ever lived. To this day I have never heard a single person mutter a negative thing about him, and I doubt I ever will. Growing up I can remember my grandfather suffering from leg problems. I don’t recall him ever complaining (I doubt he ever did), but he always walked with a limp and I remember family discussing how he was in pain on certain days. Being so young, I doubt I thought much of it, but I’m sure I was mildly annoyed he wouldn’t play with me that day. I did feel bad for him... I knew he was paying from an injury suffered in the war. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned the real story, which is probably best, because I doubt I could have fully comprehended or appreciated the truth.
During WWII my grandfather was stationed in New Guinea as a technical sergeant in the United States Air Force. It was during his time there that one of his own men shot him in the leg and as a result had to be hospitalized for an extended amount of time. During the summer of 1943, while he was still in the hospital, my grandfather’s crew went out on a mission, but never returned. His plane and men crashed into a mountain and all on board lost their lives. Thanks to what seemed like a stroke of bad luck, my grandfather’s life was spared. He was able to return home, marry my grandmother and raise six kids. Because of that soldier’s careless mistake I, along with all of my uncles, aunts and cousins, are alive today. Talk about miracles.
My grandfather didn’t speak much of the war after he returned home. His children only know bits and pieces, most of which they’ve learned from photos. It is easy to understand why. I am proud of my grandfather for fighting in WWII, but thankful for his injury. He suffered a pain that gave life to countless others. I will forever be in debt to a man who I will never know... Who died in a crash... Who will forever be lost... To a man whose name I don’t even know.
On Veterans Day I try to thank and remember all of those who have served our country. A special honor goes to those who are willing to put their life on the line to ensure freedom to others... and an even higher honor to those who did lose their lives. And while I hope all men and women get the full and correct training to serve in the military, I can’t help but be a bit thankful for the one who didn’t know how to handle his gun.