He Walked The Walk

My father was a drill sergeant in the United States Army. He taught boys how to be men, in a hurry. The shadow of war was fast approaching his young charges and he had to prepare them the best he could. Dad was just shy of being an adult himself, but he could bark out commands solidly, I am told. He came straight out of high school to work at this newspaper from which he retired after 50 years of ink-stained fingers.

He didn’t speak much about his wartime service, only to tell us he had been wounded. Flecks of shrapnel continued to ooze their way out of his knee and head long after the war was over. He wore a support bandage on his knee most of the time I can remember. It didn’t stop him from loving the game of golf, but riding a golf cart made it doable.

My father-in-law served in the United States Navy. He didn’t see combat but I recall that he made lifelong friends from his stint in the service. He rarely spoke of his work in the Navy, just about “the guys.”

Both have been gone more years than I care to think about. I hope they know that their families miss them and appreciate their time in uniform. Without them forming the steel-hard backbone of this country, I’m not sure where we’d be today. My dad carried on his fight against the wrongs of the world via his editorials. He often wrote messages strongly supporting the military. He could walk the walk and talk the talk because he had been there.

Many times a veteran would wander into the newspaper office, wanting to talk with my dad. He always took the time to hear him out, even when he had pressing deadlines for the newspaper. Veterans have a bond that most of us can never know.

My father-in-law returned to civilian life to make a career in the inner workings of Blaw Knox out on the peninsula in Wheeling. He found great camaraderie there, much like he did in the service. It was not an easy place to make a living, but he was proud of the products he and his fellow workers produced. During the war, Blaw Knox made tank parts for the military. The foundry met its demise years ago.

This weekend is more than just a time for picnics or a trip to the local swimming pools. It’s a time to remember those who have gone before us and who carried out the words we methodically repeat at sporting events: “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

In communities large and small, up and down this grand Ohio Valley, there will be observances, flag raisings and the playing of “Taps” as we observe Memorial Day on Monday. At cemeteries, flags will be placed on graves. Flower wreaths will be tossed into water. Candles will be lit. The list of ways to honor and remember goes on.

And when the children ask why, tell them about their fathers and grandfathers who served. Teach them to stand up for the American flag — as did their loved ones.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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