by Sharon Stevens

n. patriot+ism- love and loyal or zealous support of one’s own country,especially in all matters involving other countries; nationalism.     Websters New World Dictionary

In honor, memory, and celebration of my grandparents Richard & Anna Groves

What I know about patriotism I learned from my grandparents. During World War II families were encouraged to invite servicemen from the local air base for holiday meals. Rationing dictated they could only host two men at a time. The soldiers chosen for my grandparents refused to come unless they could bring a third. Their friend was of Chinese descent from California, and though he fought in Uncle Sam’s army he was unwelcome outside the base.

Grandfather had served in World War I in France in the Balloon Corp when the Armistice was signed. He knew how it felt to be so far from home at any time, but especially during the holiday season. Also their son was serving in Italy. Grandmother found it hard to imagine her first born a world away, and hoped he could find refuge with a family there. So without hesitation they opened their hearts to these three young men.

My mother remembers that first Thanksgiving of the war. They ate turkey with all the trimmings, and cakes made within rationing guidelines.

From that point on the soldier became a surrogate son. Christmas came and went, New Years and Valentine’s Day followed. Every spare moment found him at their address and not just for meals. Weekends were spent playing cards and listening to the radio with the family. Many of the other soldiers spent time off the base riding the bus downtown, to the drive inns, to the dances…his refuge was found within.

I have thought back over my grandparents efforts many times. Outside their home this young man would have faced certain discrimination, an ugliness aimed at his features though he wore the uniform of an American soldier.

In sharing the family hearth my grandparents weren’t marching in cadence with a military band, or saluting the flag with their hands over their hearts as the Star Spangled Banner stirred their soul. Their gesture spanned countless generations of dedicated Americans. They were doing what they could for the war effort by offering a warm meal with filling hearts while they filled bellies. Our family celebrated freedom just by welcoming a young soldier, AND the two friends who refused to leave him behind…simply a shining example linking the heritage of all patriots across time.

Through this legacy I know wars aren’t just won on the battlefield. Patriotism is practiced by those warriors who merely keep the home fires burning.

Sharon Stevens