I come from a long line of veterans. My grandfather was drafted at the age of 28. He was already married and had a son. When he received his draft notification he also found out soon thereafter that he had twins on the way.
He went into the Army and trained to fight in the Pacific theater. Of course, everything changed and he ended up on a Liberty ship traversing the Atlantic on a voyage to England so he could fight in Europe. His brother, however, went to fight in the Pacific theater.
My grandfather’s first experience with war came in the form of a “buzz bomb,” a rocket developed by the Germans that carried a powerful warhead. One of those rockets landed in between two chow halls during mess--killing or wounding over 1,000 men.
In due time, he boarded another ship to participate in the landing at Normandy. He was on the third wave that landed on the beaches and he told me of his memories of the dead and wounded, of the blood in the water, and of his fear.
He fought with from Normandy, through France, and into Belgium. I recall his stories of being shot at, of the horror of artillery barrages, and of the cold he experienced during the Battle of the Bulge. He was also with a unit that found a concentration camp. They shot the guards and paraded the citizens of the town through the camp.
Ultimately, he reached Germany and when the war was over, he prepared for the invasion of Japan.
My grandfather’s brother was killed by the Japanese. He was a frogman and in the dead of night had swam ashore to help prepare the beach for the invasion that would be forthcoming. He was found and summarily shot.
After the war, my grandfather came home and worked in a paper factory for the next 28 years. He walked to work--about 1 mile--every day. He also smoked like a chimney and drank beer. I was fortunate to be with him when he passed away.
His two sons, my uncles, would find themselves in Vietnam. One drafted by the army the other joined the Marines. I spent many years with my Marine uncle. He taught me how to hunt, how to fish, and how to shoot. He was an amazingly hard working man, entirely crass, and intelligent.
People contribute to our country in many ways. On this day, let’s recognize those who served our country with honor and distinction in conflicts they did not chose and did not want.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology