Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Veterans Day Personal Memories

By Amanda Fondriest

At the beginning of each news day, the day’s reporters meet with the News Director, Producer, and Assignment Editor to determine not only what gets covered but also who covers what. During Monday’s meeting, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to cover the Veterans Day festivities. Was I excited to stand outside for three hours in the freezing cold? Not so much—I forgot my gloves at home and am far too cheap to invest in another pair. But covering the event meant having Monday night with my friends. It also meant fulfilling what I viewed to be my obligation as the granddaughter of a veteran.

Glad I Went
Waking up at 7AM wasn’t really the highlight of my day, and neither was the thirty degree weather. However, when I got to Court Street, grabbed a hot chocolate and a bagel, and settled into the parade audience, I realized that attending this parade was going to be about more than getting the grade.

I hadn’t celebrated Veterans Day or Memorial Day since my grandfather’s passing in 2002. And as I stood there freezing, I couldn’t help but remember my last Memorial Day with my grandpa.

Memorial Day 2002
Each year, my middle school back home chooses two eighth grade students to read at the Memorial Day ceremony. I was selected to recite the poem ‘In Flander’s Field’ by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD when I was in the eighth grade. While I can still remember the poem word for word from hours of recital at home, the thing I remember most about that Memorial Day was my grandfather’s face.

When I arrived at the VFW to ride in the ‘limousine’ (aka hearse), the members kept asking if I was Pops’ granddaughter. Upon replying ‘yes’, they would tell me stories about my grandfather. As long as I had known him, he was Granddad: the fisherman with a passion for gardening and grilling out. But to them, he was Pops—the Vietnam War vet and the VFW's resident ‘Mr. Fix-It’ and comedian.

As I stood on the stage reciting my poem, knees knocking (I had a terrible case of stage fright until my freshman public speaking class here at OU), I only saw Granddad, standing by the big pine tree, camcorder in hand, smiling. You see, Granddad had one of those smiles that you couldn’t help but return, and he knew it. So while I stood up there, nervous as hell, he smiled: he knew I would have to stop thinking about my nerves and return it.

Granddad passed away unexpectedly that year—just a few months after Memorial Day. We had a military funeral for him. The taps played. The guns fired. Then they gave Grandma the folded flag. That was it, that was all we got. Granddad had been laid to rest.

Tuesday’s Coverage
I automatically thought of him Tuesday. Is it possible to honor the nation’s veterans without thinking of those you know personally? Before the event, I had only thought of him in passing--just that he was a veteran, just that he gave twenty years of service to our country. It wasn’t until those guns fired, the taps played, and the colors retired that I remembered him like this.

And when the essay winner stood nervously reciting her work, somewhere in my memory Granddad smiled from across the green, knowing I would have to return it, that it would replace my tears with a smile and the sad memories with the good.

No comments: