He’s always said he was just a farmer. Just. As if that were a simple achievement. Many before him had tried & failed to make 160 acres of Iowa land their own. He tilled his own land for many years in a time when the corporate U. S. farmers began to really take things over. Hanging on to one’s own land required a steady touch & hard work, strength & patience, resilience & perseverance. In order to mold the land, one had to be willing to be molded by it. Those who would tend to that rich Iowa farmland produced strong crops of corn & soybeans. Those who could surrender to the land’s natural rhythms found themselves enlarged in kind; their lives yielded faithfully, just as the fertile soil.
He was only a soldier who did his duty. Only. Alongside many others, he helped to turn the tide of evil & tyranny that threatened to consume the earth in its second world war. My grandpa’s quiet humility is typical of what has been termed the greatest generation. in 1942 at the age of twenty, he’d enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard & trained in Baltimore before being stationed at the largest U.S. naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. Though he could have remained stationed there, he asked for sea duty. In times of peace, the Guard stayed close to our shores, but in World War II, it came to the aid of all our boys stationed throughout the world. As a small part of efforts to bring aid & transport troops, he’d crossed the Equator many times, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, Suez & Panama Canals. His ship sailed to Calcutta, India & what is now Pakistan, had seen the Philippines & much of the South Pacific by the time he got out in 1946. They were crossing through the Strait of Gibraltar when they learned the war was over in ‘45. All his brothers & brothers-in-law had also joined up, & they all came back home safe, never forgetting how fortunate they were to have done so. That simple Iowa farmer had seen the world, had been a part of saving it.