Each Memorial Day I think of Grandpa LeBright. Aside from being my grandfather, much of what marked his life was his service to his country. He was a Hellcat, a tank Sergent in the 12th Armored Division. Wounded in battle in Dillingen, Germany, grandpa was just an ordinary World War II veteran whose extraordinary acts of courage and bravery were often left unspoken and shrugged off as just doing his duty. He simply did his job and like thousands of other WWII veterans came back, choosing to put the horror of war aside to build a life for his family.
I like this picture of he and mom. It's behind their small (I mean small) bungalow on New Street in Milford, DE. Here stands a man I respect so much because although he had much to cry over, chose to smile. And, though he had seen much hate and encountered much brokenness, choose to laugh and love instead.
The daily effort to put the horror of war aside must have been tremendous for grandpa. I'm sure a bottle of Scotch at time helped to anesthetize some of his inner agony. And, who could blame Him? But, my memories of Grandpa are neither of an angry, war-torn man or of a man in a drunken stupor escaping his pain.
No, my memories of Grandpa are memories of loving kindness and generosity. They are the stuff of shuffling slippers across the floor of his house at the crack of dawn on nights that I slept over and preparing a special serving of hot tea with heaping spoonfuls of sugar and a fantastic breakfast. As a casualty of war, he could of given up on life, yet he found joy in the small things in life. . .like serving his grandson. Some of the most special moments we shared took place before the birds began their mornings calls and people were roused out of bed. Those moments with just Grandpa and I are so special to me.
I also have memories of playing catch in the yard. Grandpa was a good teacher and knew much about the game of baseball. He taught my Uncle Danny, who played professionally. And, Uncle Dan attributed his success to grandpa's teaching and loving encouragement. Perhaps grandpa picked up his good instructional skills by giving orders in the war. In any event, I feel so blessed that he always took time for me as a youngster..."even though you are a south paw", he'd say with a wink.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I am so lucky that grandpa was who he was. I sit here writing on the eve of Memorial Day in tearful gratitude for a grandpa like no other. He helped shape my understanding of what it means to be a man. He experienced death and pain and loss in the war... but purposefully choose to keep smiling.
Sure, grandpa was victorious in Europe. But, perhaps Grandpa's greatest victory is seen in this picture. Head kicked-back and laughing from the gut. The pain and grief he suffered from war I will never understand or know. I think much of it went with him to his grave. What we get in Grandpa is a man choosing to meet a new day with a smile while pouring out his generous embrace to those he loved most. Yes, victory indeed.
We all love and miss you Grandpa!