My grandfather served in World War I. He and his two childhood friends enlisted early and went to France. Three young guys from a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state - shipping out to the horror of war - "the War to end all Wars."
I do not remember my grandfather talking about the war - I now know that it shaped his life forever in some very negative ways. Grandfather was awarded a Croix de Guerre, which hung in the Legion Hall in Concrete, Washington until my Grandmother died in 1989. His war experience killed his spirit.
My grandfather and grandmother were very involved in the American Legion. One of my early and fond memories is selling "Buddy Poppies" with Grammy. Her quiet example of patriotism, patience and sacrifice are with me today.
As a little girl, I knew the American Legion was important to them. It was a central part of their small town social and community service life. My grandmother served as a long-time President of the Legion Auxiliary. Over the years, grandfather held many leadership roles in the Post and one of them was to have drinks at the Legion Bar.
I didn't know that only two of the original three friends returned from France. Grandpa and Hobbie returned and founded that Legion Post to honor, Arnold Heskett, their childhood buddy who never came home. There is still an Arnold Heskett American Legion Post #132 in Concrete Washington.
My grandfather died in 1962 of complications from diabetes, heart disease and too much alcohol. I am sure the images of his military service were always very close to the surface for him.
It was not until the 1980's when Hobbie wrote about their time in France - that we learned of the terrible things they experienced - learned of heroism, death, destruction, and loss that never left them. It said much about some of my Grandfather's later life.
Hobbie lived to be over 100 years old and has since passed on. Arnold Heskett died in France more than 90 years ago - we are still killing our young people in combat. The beat goes on death, destruction, camaraderie, heroism, loss that will never leave us.
I honor those who serve - we must stop this madness.