Two stories, one at a wedding rehearsal, one at a wedding reception.
Story one. I did a wedding for one of my relatives in Flora, Illinois, a quaint little community. We had the rehearsal dinner in a pavilion near a corn field. As is my custom, I usually try to sit next to the grandparents of the bride or groom. I feel safe there and I can usually carry on a conversation. So I sat next to the bride’s grandparents and opened the questioning with: “So, how did the two of you meet?” “We met during the war.” (WWII, in case you didn’t know.) “Oh,” I said, “where did you serve?” “Europe,” grandpa replied, “I was at D-Day.” My jaw dropped. “Oh, which beach?” “Omaha.” My jaw dropped further. (If you don’t know why, please do some reading.) “I was a tanker, so I followed the first wave.” “Where did you go next?” “Bastogne.” My jaw has never recovered. In case you didn’t know, Bastogne was infamous for a siege of American troops who were surrounded by the German army during the coldest winter on record for Europe. The German commander asked the American Commander to surrender, to which Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe replied with one word: NUTS. Needless to say, the siege was broken and an amazing story was established. So, here was little old grandpa, in a corn field, celebrating the wedding of his granddaughter, an unassuming, unpretentious, self-effacing war hero. My favorite kind.
Story two. At a wedding reception, I was talking to the grandfather of another bride. The bride was a former student and the daughter of one of my colleagues. We started talking about his war experience. He was in the Pacific, a fly boy, hop skipping from island to island. We talked for several minutes about his escapades. “And then there was this one time…” My ears perked up. And then the old man stopped. He looked down, somewhat troubled, and then he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Well, I am not going to talk about that.” “OK,” I replied, “no problem.” I told him that I was going to get a drink and we said our goodbyes. At the bar, I met my colleague, the mother of the bride and I told her, “Your father-in-law has some great stories! He was so interesting to talk to.” She replied, “He has talked to you more tonight about his experiences that he share with us the entire time I have known him.”
Do yourself a favor this week. Talk to a veteran. If they don’t want to talk about some things, let it go. But if they do, you may realize that you are in the presence of someone special.
God Bless Our Veterans!