What it means to be a hero

Veteran’s Day – a day to honor our soldiers at war and at home, a day to remember and reflect, and a day to say thank you.

It is also a day to think about what it really means to be a hero.

Veteran’s Day is a day that is special to me for a couple reasons. First, it’s my dad’s birthday. As a kid I always thought it was so cool he got his birthday off! It’s ironic that Veteran’s Day is my dad’s birthday. My dad is a huge history buff and very passionate about World War 2 and “The Greatest Generation.” My dad is also one of my heros for everything he has done for me and our family – including making the tough choice to serve in the Army Reserves instead of going to Vietnam. If he hadn’t done that, who knows if my brother and I would be here today.

The second reason Veteran’s Day is special to me is because of my grandpa. My grandfather, John Owen Graham (my Owen’s namesake), fought in World War 2 – flying 99 missions in the Army Air Force – choosing to enlist instead of awaiting being drafted.

My grandfather, John Graham is on the far-right.

I found myself wanting to tell my 3 year old Owen about Veteran’s Day and the hero that his great-grandfather was. But, how do you explain war and heroism to a 3 year old? To be honest, I hope he never knows about war. I want to protect him from war and the realities of the world we live in as long as possible. How could I possibly explain why people go to war? I’ve always thought it was ironic that the most developed species – the human race – are also the only ones who harm each other intentionally.

So as I’m getting Owen dressed this morning in his Spiderman shirt – he starts to do his imitation of Spiderman – superhero to kids all over.

After I put his shirt on, I pull him close and say:

Me: “Owen, you know…. your name Owen is from mommy’s grandpa and gampa’s daddy – his middle name was Owen. Owen, he was a hero.”

Owen: (in a hushed and adorable 3 year old voice) “Yea, he was a hero.”

I give him a big hug and kiss, and with tears in my eyes, I realize that he doesn’t need to know about war today. He just needs to know that today is a special day, and that he is loved and safe.

When he gets older I will teach him and Luke about the sacrifices that people make who fight for our country – I will teach them how brave they are and I will tell them the story of their grandfather.

In the meantime, I will hold them close and protect them as long as possible.

The legacy of my grandparents lives on. They both passed away in 2005 exactly one month apart to the day. Below is a beautiful video my cousin put together a little while back about their love story, their legacy and my grandfather’s heroic story.

Yep….he was a hero.

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