Books, Jeopardy and What’s Worth Remembering After Memorial Day

Memorial Day has come and gone. Most enjoyed a day off of work with a reason to BBQ, break out the boat, the pool and usher in an unofficial welcome to summer.

I know summer doesn’t technically start until June 20th but who’s keeping track right?

And yes, most people understand why we have such a day to remember those who fought and died for us so we can have BBQ’s, boats, pools, and long weekends. But there’s more to these selfless people’s stories than the sacrifice they made for our freedoms. Those who witnessed the unspeakable. Those who performed the unthinkable. There’s more behind their fatigues that shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s not just about holding one day of reverence in a moment of silence to remember those with honor. It’s how we remember who they were everyday through our own actions.

Before they were soldiers they were people. They were moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and lovers. They had intelligence, wits, talent, morals, goals and dreams. Most had greater contributions to make for their families,  trades and communities. These are the things they sacrificed and jeopardized for the greater good. In countless instances that potential was left on the battlefield. What greater influence could these men and women have passed on to others if given the chance?

I was lucky to have that influence.  My Grandfather Fred served in World War 2. Sure I think about him more on Memorial Day and the sacrifices he made as a soldier.  But I think about him everyday because of the person he was.

Here’s a guy who quit school in the 8th grade to go to work to support his family. When he came back from the war he had nothing but my Grandmother. He made his own opportunity. Slowly but surely through hard work and grit he started his own business, built his own house from scratch that still stands today and sent his sons, my father and uncle, to college.

Not bad for an 8th grade education huh? And don’t let that fool you. He was book smart too.

I always admired his self-education even as a youngster when we’d watch Jeopardy together. Yeah Jeopardy, the game show.

Yes I was 10 and watched Alex Trebek dryly deliver questions that were answers to contestants who gave him answers that were questions, which at the time was very confusing. But I digress.

I wasn’t really watching the show as much as I was keeping track of how many questions Grandpa would get right and how much money he would have had for Final Jeopardy. He  knew the answer to every 3rd or 4th question no matter the category. And if the category was on World War 1, 2, or Presidents? Forget it, he’d nail every one.

How did he know all that stuff without a high school degree?

Books.

And man he had a ton of them. Many of which I have on my bookshelf today. He educated himself through both fiction and nonfiction. He loved to learn. When he was younger a typical education wasn’t convenient. But that didn’t mean he wanted to stop educating himself.

Grandpa taught me the value of books and storytelling. He cherished literature and the people who take the time to write down thoughts, plots, characters, history, beliefs and opinions so others can learn from them. He was living proof and probably the biggest reason why I want to be a writer.

Every time I read or write something I think about how lucky I am that his influence and potential was realized. While a day dedicated to remembering acts of bravery and selflessness is necessary, those people, like my Grandfather, had even more value in their minds and hearts that can carry on through generations. The choices we make, the lives we lead, and what we do with our liberty can not only honor those soldiers, but carry on the ideas, virtues and talents they left behind as people.

Who’s sacrificed for you? Who impacted your life? Who mentored, encouraged and inspired you to action? I hope you all have an answer to that question like I do. And if you find a lesson in their story to carry on in yours, Memorial Day can be everyday.

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