UNITED STATES—It has been a holiday that I never fully appreciated until I had an in-depth conversation with family and my grandfather. Veterans Day is about paying tribute to those who have put their lives at risk or lost their life fighting for our country. I have many family members who have served in the military, which includes the air force and the army. One of those individuals, who until recent I had not really shown my gratitude to was my grandfather.

My grandfather served in World War II and he is a veteran America. There are NOT many people who served in World War II who is still living in this country, but my grandad is one of those people. My grandfather is a year or two away from turning 100 and he has accomplished a lot in his life and the one thing that always haunted me for years that I never understood was WHY my grandfather never flew. You will never see him on an airplane and there is a reason for it. During WWII, he was tossed out of a fighter plane as Americans battled on that bloody beach battle at the culmination of WWII.

For those not in the know, this is a scene that played out in the opening of Steven Spielberg’s war flick “Saving Private Ryan.” That opening sequence is bloody and damn difficult to watch, but I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my grandfather was in the thick of that bloody, fiery battle where so many lives were lost and it was horrific to witness on the big screen, I can ONLY imagine one having to witness it first-hand America; it would haunt me for years to come.

As you know he survived that bloody battle, but he has shared so many tales with me about being camped out in dug holes as they battled the enemy and how race back in the 40s was a serious issue, where Blacks were not allowed to congregate with Whites, even though both races were fighting a common enemy. Yes, we’ve made strides in regards to race relations, but even in 2020, we still have a ton of work to do.

My grandfather survived a brutal war and I should tout that accomplishment more than anything, because it makes me wonder what kept him fighting during that mayhem. It was my grandmother. He made a promise to her that he would return from the war and he lived up to that promise. Bless her heart, because my grandmother passed away several years ago, but I cannot remember a couple as long as I know who were married 75 years. Yes, 75 years America. That is a long time America, and I’ve been working on a tale to share my grandfather’s story and his heroics. I’m proud of my grandfather and that is not something I always say or tell him, but I’m saying it now.

You fought a war to allow me and so many other Americans to have freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. I want you and all the veterans out there, regardless of if you fought in World War II, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War or any other battles to ensure the freedoms so many of us take for granted, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service and all you do. Veterans should be touted as the actual heroes, not the celebrities, athletes and countless others who receive accolades that they deserve, but it’s not on the same scale as fighting for one’s country.

So if you have a veteran in your family, a friend or a neighbor, thank them for them service, don’t just look at Veterans Day as another day off, it’s an opportunity to celebrate and honor those who fought for us to have the freedoms that so many of us take for granted day in and day out.