My grandfather never talked about the war when I was growing up. He always wore that ballcap stamped with veteran patches; so much so, it simply became a part of him. His service didn’t come up in dinner conversation, from what I can remember.
To him, I think deployment to Korea was a memory so distant it felt like another lifetime. It wasn’t until last year when he described to me his memories of a nation torn by conflict and communism, but through a lens of hopeful realism.
He was born 30 miles outside of Philadelphia in the 1930s; he had a middle school education when he married my grandmother — a marriage that would endure more than six decades. Humble beginnings for the man who is and will always be my hero.
When he told me about the Korean War and his time in the U.S. Army, I told him he was my hero. It was the last thing I ever said to him. He died a few months later, earlier this year.
U.S. Army buglers played Taps and presented my family a folded flag at the Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery. He was laid to rest in my home state of North Carolina. But his spirit lives on here in Maricopa, I think.
A soldier doesn’t have to fall on a grenade, lose a limb or down a kamikaze pilot to become a hero in someone’s eyes. Here in Maricopa, we have so many heroes. Every veteran, I believe, is a hero to someone.
Mere days of deployment are enough to become a hero, to instill discipline, to learn to never take life for granted, to make lifelong memories good and bad. Just ask Lloyd Frank, a Maricopa veteran Tom Schuman profiles in this magazine.
My grandfather died after a lengthy battle with cancer. In this edition, you’ll learn how veterans in Maricopa stand at the forefront of public health in our community, keeping our heroes close to our earthly home a little bit longer.
My grandfather only ever shared one wartime memory with me. But I remember how he described seeing images of South Korea today, unable to conceive how those ultra-modern, neon-lit and liberated streets were the same ones on which he stood decades ago, helping fight for democracy a world away.
Maricopa is becoming unrecognizable to some. We take the good with the bad; food is unaffordable and economic pressures spur guilt and shame, a theme our business reporter Monica D. Spencer and publisher Scott Bartle explore in this edition.
And Maricopa stands opposed to its southerly neighbor on either side of a wall of traffic blockades symbolizing so much more than a divided road, but a cleaved community; much like the 38th parallel in Korea where my hero aided in our great country’s global pursuit of liberty.
Does your hero live in Maricopa? For many of my readers, I presume the answer is yes.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and Veterans Day together this month, let’s put our tribulations aside and celebrate our peacetime, our prosperity and most importantly — our heroes.
The November edition of InMaricopa Magazine is in Maricopa mailboxes and available online.