Today’s title refers to both Veterans Day and my grandfather, a veteran. I intended to write about Veterans Day on the actual day it occurred, but I forgot. Not for long, though, so here are my thoughts.
My mom’s father was an Army man. He served in the Korean War and WWII and worked for the government even after retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He would have made it to the Colonel rank, but he didn’t have a college degree. He actually didn’t even graduate high school and instead earned his GED.
His name was Mervin, but I called him “Dakie.” (That’s with a short “a,” rhymes with “khaki,” for those of you who didn’t have a Dakie of your own.) Reportedly the name was created when I tried to imitate my mom, who called him “Daddy.” (She’s Southern. They do that.)
My Dakie was from Georgia, and he could wiggle his ears. He loved spending hours working in the yard, and sometimes when we went to visit him, he’d say to my dad, “Tom, I’ve got a little chore I need some help with.” That usually meant he needed help with an outdoor and/or handyman project, although rumor has it that it once involved nose hair.
My mom tells me that Dakie was just as accident-prone as Mark; unfortunately, they never met. Dakie made a funny little noise to tease our cats every time he came to our house, and he fed dinner scraps to the birds every night. And one time when I was at his house – just me, no parents, no cousins – he told me that I’m his favorite. He also thought I looked like Brooke Shields, so I say he had good taste.
Together with Granny, Dakie traveled in his motor home to Good Sam Clubs, taking us grandkids to Lake Paradise for cookouts, paddle boating and swimming. When I was a real little girl, I would spend Fridays with Granny and Dakie. We would drop Granny off at the beauty parlor, then afterward we’d all go to Hardee’s and eat hamburgers with ketchup and mayonnaise. For dinner, Granny would cook him big meals with mysterious foods like collard greens.
Dakie was a fast driver and a terrible driver (a trait my brother has definitely inherited), and I remember one time he got a ticket on the way back to our house – with my brother and me in the car. And Dakie read his Bible every morning and went to church every Sunday and loved the Lord.
As a matter of fact, I remember one of our last conversations being about the trip he’d just taken with his church, to the Presbyterian Church’s general assembly. Well, that, and the dog race track they were building near his house.
But more than any of these things, the thing I remember most from my Dakie is the importance of patriotism. He had fought for our country; he even came back with some shrapnel in his shoulder. He taught me to stand at attention during the national anthem, and he taught me to respect the American flag (including how to fold one and when it should and should not be flown). And when I stood at Fort Leavenworth during his funeral in the summer of 1991, I learned how brutal the lonesome notes of “Taps” are and how jarring the sound of a 21-gun salute can be to your heart. Like so many of our country’s heroes, my Dakie may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
I’m thankful for my dear granddad, and for all the men and women who serve and have served in our Armed Forces.
Have you or any of your family members or friends served in the military?