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Who do I want to be when I grow up?

05.22.2013, by Susan Conolly

This is a very personal story written by two sisters whose husbands both serve in the military.

Normally I don't like to toot my own horn but I am going to make an exception when it comes to my Grandparents.  Not many people know the story of my family, but this weekend is a great opportunity for me to brag about where I come from. What is so special about this weekend? Well, for starters it is Memorial Day and it is also my Grandparent’s 65th wedding anniversary.

My grandfather is the youngest of 4 boys who all served in the United States Army around the time of World War II. None of them had more than an 8th grade education, and they came from a dirt poor town in Kansas called Newton. They never asked to be recognized, none of them were officers, none of them wanted to be buried at Arlington, none of that. Very quietly, they served their country at the time when black people serving in the military were denigrated to menial tasks, and degrading responsibilities. But rather than become angry, bitter, or carry a grudge, my grandfather and his brothers served with honor. He cooked meals, scrubbed floors, took insults, and never thought twice about it. He endured what few would tolerate and never even expected a thank you.

He returned from the war and married his sweetheart, my grandmother Glenna. They endured the time apart during the war with no e-mail, web cams, little to no phone access, and they relied on pen and paper to carry their messages of love and support to one and other. Maybe that is what has made their marriage so strong. They didn’t need the internet, digital devices, or other gidgets and gadgets. They loved each other with a love that few had then or have now, and that was enough to sustain my grandfather threw his ordeal, and keep my grandmother strong in his absence. That is some kind of love.

Since then, they settled down bought not one but two homes in the Wichita KS area, and raised two children.  This couple who started with nothing, raised two happy well adjusted, educated, and successful children who carried on the tradition of family. Sadly, they buried my uncle when he was in his mid-thirties.  Both my mom, and her brother, had two daughters, and all 4 of us granddaughters are happily married with military men, 2 Army and 2 Navy.  Our Grandfather has walked each of us down the aisle on our wedding days, to the arms of our serving husbands.

Maybe we see the noble characteristics of valor, bravery, and honesty that we saw demonstrated by my grandfather in the men we married. Perhaps we carry some of my grandmother’s wisdom in choosing men. Whatever it is, the tradition of being a family that serves without reservation has continued.  Outside of the military, they have been faithful to the same church for more than 60 years - often sitting in the same pew.  Together, they have buried brothers, friends, nieces and a son. They have watched their grandchildren graduate from high schools, colleges, and achieve the highest level of athletic success. And now in the twilight of their lives, I hope they are happy. I hope that they are proud of the family they created, and the traditions they crafted in love.

They are who I want to be when I grow up.

Carmen Rojas
Navy Wife and mother of 2

JaNelle Casson
Army Wife and mother of 3