Monday, July 10, 2006

A Hero For All Times

I wrote this essay about my grandfather in 2001 for an online contest...I re-edited this essay for a little more clarity, but I hope the true spirit and intent in which I wrote this paper about my honorable and beautiful grandfather a.k.a. Soldier Boy Grip comes through none the less...

My true hero is my grandfather, Arthur Taylor, Sr.
... About two years ago my grandfather received several medals, not including the Purple Heart which he should have also gotten, that he earned while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II...It was presented to him by the young U.S. congressman (and current U.S. Senate hopeful), the generous and kind Harold Ford, Jr....This crowning achievement was the result of my mother's hardwork and dilligence in obtaining the documents necessary in securing these military honors. That day was surely one of the happiest in my grandfather's long, steady and storied life.

My grandfather was actually drafted into the army when he was around nineteen or twenty years of age...Being a Black farmboy from Mississippi he did not know too much about the world beyond the dusty country roads and large cotton plantations he and his family of brothers were used to working...The only other ways he would venture out beyond the rural world he knew was by viewing the moving pictures show or listening to the radio.

At first when his draft notice came my grand father, like many other unsuspecting and unassuming youths forced to take on a larger role and responsibility in the adult world surrounding them, was scared and worried to be taken from a place of some comfort and familiarity and put in an environment completely alien and due to the factors of war hostile and indifferent to a foreigner...However, his fears of worry and anxiety transformed into a sense of purpose and duty when he started to feel that it was his responsibility to respond to action when his country called.

Ironically, even though my grand father and millions of other young people were fighting to eradicate the systems of oppression brought on by Hitler's nazism and Mussollini's fascism there were still practiced and legalized forms(Jim Crow) of racism supported by whites in the South as well as in the Northern parts of the U.S. Despite this home atrocity my grandfather and his colleagues reasoned that if they helped win the battle of hatred and oppression overseas that the spirit of kindness, goodwill, and patriotism of their acts could transcend the barriers and obstacles of human predjudice and racism in their homeland. This is a great quality that I admire in my grandfather, the ability to to take the worst of a situation and make it work to the best of his advantage. Even though racism was very blunt and prevalent during his time in the U.S. Army he did not let the society at large's ignorance and handicaps hinder him from doing what he thought was the right thing which was to serve his country honorably with all the energy his small body yet big heart could muster and spare.
I often love talking to my grandfather about those times in his youth when he was making the world safe for democracy. He would often tell me about the good times in between the battles that he had all the while meeting and interacting with some of the most intriguing and unique people to ever graced the planet. He would often tell me of the first time he heard Lester Young , Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday among other jazz icons play at weekend dances. His face would literally beam with amusement and nostalgia when he would reenact the first time he met Louis Armstrong in the v.a. hospital or when he personally ask the Brown Bomber himself, Mr. Joe Louis, tips on how to become a better boxer...My grandfather was also a very gifted baseball infielder...He used to spend much of his free time playing baseball and even had an encounter or two with baseball great Jackie Robinson who also served during the war...A white major league pitcher by the name of Ewell Blackwell told my grandfather he was good enough to be a professional ball player...He was even going to sign with Mr. Robinson's Negro Leaugue baseball team, The Kansas City Monarchs...Unfortunately, my grandfather received serious head and back injuries during the war and was unable to fulfill this dream.
The reasons why my grandfather earned those medals were the facts that he participated in the battles that were the significant changing points in the war...He stormed the beaches of Normandy ( D Day)as well as fought it out at The Battle of the Bulge...He was even promoted to the rank of sergeant for his exploits and bravery on the field of battle...Although he lost his rank due to reasons still unclear as well as racially motivated, he still pledged allegiance to the U.S. and fought a good fight under its flag.

In conclusion I would like to say above all else my grandfather is a very compassionate man...It takes a compassionate person to be willing to risk their life to make a difference and help their fellow human being...It takes a compassionate person to see beyond the failings and faults of others and see the common humanity and good in everyone...It takes a compassionate person to pursue a goal with all his/her heart and to see it through regardless of the outcome...Most importantly it takes a compassionate person to forgive their debtors and enemies in order to come together for an universal yet unfulfilled call for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Even though my grandfather was born into sharecropper's poverty he was still richly saturated with love to spread around...If to whom much is given much is expected then my grandfather already won all bets by being willing to be loved and give love back in return.


cth said...

This is excellent. Thanks for caring and loving your grandfather. He loved you as much as you did him. May you continue to be able to provide your stories and inspiration to others. You are a true historian. God has an awesome plan in your life and I am proud to be a part of you....

Shamontiel said...

Now Ron, you know you're killing me with all of these font colors and text. I highlighted this whole thing, made it black and Times New Roman so I could read it. You can't be messing with blind folks' eyes. LOL. Anyway, it was very nice to read about your grandfather. Actually, I'm going to spend the night over my grandfather's house tomorrow, and you make me want to bring my tape recorder and just let him talk about whatever so I can have memories of his tales. He keeps telling me, "I'm already dead. I'm just too evil to close my eyes." I know that's creepy to say, but he's such a funny cat that you can't help but laugh when he says it. Wow! Now I'm really looking forward to Father's Day. Tomorrow is his birthday and then Father's Day comes right around the corner.

You've never told me if you were a Dad, so I'll say Happy Father's Day to the surrounding fathers in your life.