The Fourth of July has always been one of my absolute favorite days of the year. This year, though, the holiday is a little bittersweet.

You see, I lost both of my grandfathers earlier this year. One of my grandfathers was responsible for the family’s annual Independence Day celebration, and both of them were proud veterans. I miss them every day – but especially today.

Robert Rofstad: My grandfather grew up in Chicago during the Great Depression, and he served in Europe and Africa with the Big Red One during World War II. He and a couple of his brothers (he had 10 siblings, including a twin brother!) had their own carpet measuring company, although he’d been retired as long as I can remember. He and my grandmother had 3 children, and he was active in the VFW. I have fond memories of breakfasts, car rides, and nature walks with Grandpa. He was a quiet jokester and a kind soul.

Grandpa Rofstad

Me, Grandpa Rofstad, and my sister

Last month, I met my grandmother, mother, and sister in Washington, D.C., on a pilgrimage to see the WWII memorial. It was an incredible trip, and I know my grandfather was there with us in spirit.

WWII Memorial

Mom, Grandma, and me at the WWII Memorial

James A. Kuhn: My grandpa was one of 6 brothers growing up on the North Side of Chicago. His grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg, which initiated a family tradition of Civil War history buffs.

Grandpa Kuhn

Grandpa Kuhn at my wedding

During the Korean War, Grandpa was stationed in Europe with the Air Force, and, upon his return, he worked as a car salesman and helped raise 9 children. Everyone in his hometown knew him for his classic yellow convertible, signature cowboy hat, and trademark cigar. He instilled a sense of patriotism and love of July Fourth in all of his grandchildren.

Both of these men left behind amazing families and incredible stories. I can only aspire to fill the big shoes they left behind. Today, as I celebrate America, I also celebrate them.

Happy Fourth, Grandpas.