This weekend, I learned about the death of another amazing World War II era Veteran. Those of them who remain are quickly leaving this earth simply due to time. George Meissler left us this past Saturday at 5pm in his Florida home–he was my Grandfather.
Grandpop was a former U.S. Army Air Corp mechanic during the war. That’s about all I knew of his military experience. I never spoke to him about his military years even though I followed his footsteps serving in the U.S. Air Force. I don’t know of his training, his tours of duty, where he went to party on temporary assignments, nothing.
In fact, my memories of my Grandpop are far and few. He lived hundreds of miles away but that is inexcusable. Sadly, within the past twenty four hours, I have realized that life is simply too short to take for granted–something, for the most part, we all do–something I now realize I had done.
Even serving in numerous war torn nations and seeing tragedies from first-hand accounts, I should have known to open better interpersonal lines of communications with those I actually admire and love. Do I regret not being better at embracing my World War II Grandpop? You bet.
There is a generation of real heroes leaving this world faster than I would like. They are men and women who served in some of the most complex times yet prevailed in victory. Victory–arguably, it’s something we as a nation have not seen in quite a long time. How great would it have been to listen and learn what true victory was really all about? This was a conversation I never had with my Grandpop but I sure wish I did.
My grandfather is no longer capable of speaking his words of wisdom. He can no longer articulate the good times and the bad. The only things left are the few memories we once had–him wearing his incredibly tight sweatshirts of my old high school, holiday dinners, and his smile.
Life is short. Even for those of us who have been to war and fully grasp the realities of life, we sometimes lack realization to life’s precious moments. We become too consumed over the petty–jobs, politics, sports, etc. Family values, while they may always be in the back of our minds, they often lack the physical necessities of total embracement.
If you know of a World War II veteran, if you know of a Korean War Veteran, if you know of a Vietnam Veteran, or any Veteran for that matter–embrace them. Embrace them and ask them to speak so you can listen to their stories. Listen and learn. They are a world of knowledge that we as an entire nation should consume. These brave American patriots can, and will, teach us a plethora of lessons but only if we take the time to listen and learn.
Life is much shorter than anyone realizes. Always say I love you to those you care about. Never waste an opportunity to give a hug and no matter how far someone is, always find a way to let them know you’re thinking about them.
George Meissler will be greatly missed. He will be buried in his American Legion Color Guard uniform–an outfit he admired more than life. His coffin will be draped with the American Flag and the U.S. Air Force Color Guard will be present. The only thing missing will be the time lost that can never be brought back.
Kerry Patton is a Senior Analyst for WIKISTRAT. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.” You can follow him on Facebook.