Happy D-Day, Awesome Veteran Granddad Guy! And To All You Other Ones Too
If you enjoy having deep, loving feelings about people you’ve never met, check out this tale of the WWII veteran who was lost (and found) in Europe this week:
An 89-year-old veteran who went missing from his retirement home in Sussex, England yesterday morning has been located: He showed up today on the beachhead of Normandy, medals pinned to his coat, to take in the anniversary celebration of the D-Day invasion.
It seems former Hove, England town mayor Bernard Jordan just wanted to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day (check out Wonkette’s hilarious post if you want to know how FOX News would’ve covered the original D-Day.) So why not get on a bus to France, meet up with a younger vet, split a hotel room, and go to the beach? Hell, when you’re 89, you probably don’t worry about things like “letting everyone know where you’re going.” Because fuck it, you survived a war and more, and when you want to go on vacation, you’re going the hell on vacation.
This story reminded me of my own grandfather, Joseph, who was not at D-Day but who served in WWII. He hated war and what he called “the military mindset,” but he was proud to be a veteran of WWII. He served with the 15th Air Force, 461st Bomb Group, 766 Bomb Squadron. He completed 50 missions as an engineer/waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber. During the latter part of his service, his squadron was escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen, a privilege he valued for a few reasons, not the least was the fact that they could save his ass from being shot down by the enemy. He won a bunch of medals including a Presidential Citation for a raid on the most heavily guarded fortress, the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. (IMPORTANT FACT: one of the planes he flew was called the Urgin’ Virgin and had a hot pinup babe painted on the side.) Then he came home, worked as a shop teacher and a high school principal, helped raise four kids, and got into golf in retirement.
He loved Art Buchwald, and I started reading political humor when I was a wee tot because of him. He used to argue with my dad about politics, and they’d watch early episodes of “Crossfire” on CNN while I sat nearby. He despised segregation. During the Vietnam War, he wore a peace button around the high school where he worked. He was an early adopter of technology, especially when it came to the Internet — he had AOL before anybody I knew, and he kept it long after anybody I knew.
Here’s a photo of him in his bomber jacket. He was born a few years before Bernard Jordan, but they’re around the same age in their respective soldier photos:
And here he is with me last year. He was 89 years old at the time. I taught him how to take a selfie, because how else would you bond with your grandfather? He thought it was amazing. He looked at it and said, “Wow. That is something!” and chuckled in delight.
I only ever heard him say one bad thing about anyone besides a Republican president or FOX News, and it was a few months before he died. He hated war. I wanted to know if he hated the enemy, too. He was a lifelong liberal Democrat who believed priests in the Catholic Church should be married, women should be ordained, and gays and lesbians should be able to get hitched if they wanted to. I found it hard to believe he might have hate in his heart, but if he did hate anyone, surely it’d be the Nazis.
I asked him, “Pop-Pop, what did you think of the Nazis?”
He thought for a moment and said, “Well, we had no use for them.”
That was serious shit-talking from my grandfather.
He died in November in the house he built for his family. He was 90.
Enjoy the hell out of today, Bernard Jordan. Joe Donnelly would want you to.