Living

Military Service in Thompson Generations Past

pics Fall 08 031
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my family has quite the military lineage. My father and his father were both the horrifying army types (joke, Dad!) and my mom’s father was a sailor during WWII. We are a family dedicated to military service. Even when I swore up and down as a kid that it would stop with me. But here I am. I will admit it here…I never wanted to be in the military. Growing up in the environment proved to me that I didn’t want to live where I could never keep friends! I didn’t want to be yelled at! I didn’t want to work and sleep in the (whole body shiver) FIELD!!! But then I grew up. I hit university and realized that I didn’t know what the world would offer me when I finished my degree. I realized that although I felt great fear in joining the forces, at the same time, it brought me so much comfort and pride. I liked the order, regulations and security. It felt like another family. A family that would take care of me as my biological family had. So I signed on the dotted line and made the military my life. Not surprisingly, my joining the forces has lead to a closer relationship with my only surviving grandfather, my mom’s father, Grandpa J. Two years ago, I decided to live out one of my “Bucket List” experiences and spend Remembrance Day with Grandpa J, in uniform, in his hometown of Simcoe, ON. At first, I think my grandparents were just happy to hear I’d be visiting (so they could finally meet Ben too) but soon, I think I could hear excitement in Grandpa J’s voice that we would be spending this important day together. To give you the proper image of Grandpa J, to say that he is a quiet man would be the understatement of the century. I’ve heard him tell me he loves me only a handful of times, not because he doesn’t feel it, but because it is not the way he’s been raised. He is tall, thin (still fits in his sailor uniform from the 40s!!!) but ever so kind. He’s what you would call your Strong and Silent type. And I love him. Ben and I showed up the morning of Remembrance day, Ben choosing not to don his uniform so as to let it be a special day for my grandpa and I. When he stepped out of his room, Grandpa J declared, “I think I’m going to go in the parade today.” Every year, veteran’s march in the Simcoe parade, medals and poppies weighing down their chests. But Grandpa has chosen not to participate these last few years, finding the weather (and perhaps the emotion) too much to take. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such admiration in my life, standing there at attention, watching Grandpa J brave the cold in his grey slacks and navy blazer. And when I saluted to “O Canada”, I saluted for him. And for all the others. It was the most special of special days. I don’t know if it was my presence, my uniform, or the memory of a life he had once had, but I could see my grandpa young again, before he was a grandfather, and the contribution he had made to the life we have in Canada. Man, I was so proud. Grandpa J hasn’t missed a Remembrance Day ceremony since. This year, I hope to visit my dad’s father, my Grandpa T, who I was extremely close to. But it will have to be at his grave, as he died before ever seeing me in uniform. I can imagine him saying to me, “Moo, I always knew you’d be something.” (His favourite saying to me.) I can imagine him making a joke about the fact that I chose Air Force (the family battle continues) but then I imagine him hugging me and me breaking down to tears in all my professional officer glory. So Grandpa T, this year, the salute will be to you. And although Remembrance Day seems a strange day for a person to anticipate, I know that it is because it is just another thing that will bring us closer together, even though I imagine you’re light years away. Kelly
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