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.
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.
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.
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.