Watching Gurren Lagann invariably leaves me in a contemplative mood; so, I wasn’t surprised when my recent rewatch of it ended with me reflecting on the quiet heroism that my grandfather (on my mother’s side) displayed throughout his life, which includes fighting in World War II. I decided to be a bit selfish and write something for this blog about him so others can read how incredible he was. I chose today to this so I could also remind people to thank a vet for the sacrifices that they have made.
My grandfather was a man of little words and he didn’t like talking about his experiences in WWII or his earlier life so I’ve only heard parts of the story of his life from other family members over many different times and have had to put them together. It goes something like this.
Like so many other immigrants living in the Mahoning valley, my grandfather’s father worked in the steel mills and in those days it was a dangerous job. So, it wasn’t all that surprising that his father was killed while working in a steel mill nor that my grandfather’s mother decided to remarry. (That there was no welfare state like there is today probably contributed this decision.) Several years later, my grandfather’s step-dad contracted a bacterial disease while working in a steel mill and, since this was a couple of decades before the invention of antibiotics, he ended up passing away too. This left my grandfather’s family in a bind. By now there were several younger siblings that needed to be fed as well as my grandfather’s mom; so, even though my grandfather was still elementary age (once I was told he was in fourth grade and another time in sixth grade), he dropped out of school and got a job in a steel mill to support his family. Which he was able to do.
He continued to work in a steel mill until WWII and eventually joined the Army Corp of Engineers. I’m not sure if he was drafted or volunteered to go but he ended up going to the European theater and seemed to primarily work on building bridges. Like I said he didn’t talk often his war experience but I do remember hearing that he went to France soon after D-Day. (I think D-Day+3 but I’m not too sure.) One thing he did say about his time in Europe was that he disliked the French because they were a rude people.
After the war he returned to Youngstown to settle down and raise a family; he rarely left the area again. One of his war buddies offered to set him up to be an apple farmer in Washington state but he declined (thankfully, or else I wouldn’t be here :) ). He continued to work at a steel mill, tinkered with machines, and single-handedly built an addition onto his house when the family got to large. He literally did everything from digging out a full basement to laying the roofing shingles. The backdoor steps that he poured where so massively overkill that when a drunk driver tried to drive his full-size SUV at a high rate of speed through my grandparent’s house about ten years ago, those steps were able to stop the SUV before it could hurt anyone in the house or even cause major structural damage to the house.
I wish he’d have lived a little longer then he did because I was just starting to get old enough that his curmudgeon-like nature no longer scared me and I could appreciate him. Looking back I love how he’d show up for a family doing for about 30 minutes – just long enough to eat and engage in a small amount of socializing – before going back home. I have a couple mementos of him including his telescope and the wooden box he built to hold it and the various accessories.
In keeping with remembering Veteran’s Day, here our some pictures and postcards that have been digitalized that come from his time in WWII.
edit: I was looking through some of the other pictures I got and was wondering what exactly this contraption was: