Today, throughout all of the Nation and Steelers Nation, we come together to remember those who have served. During the birth of this great nation, through it’s early defenses, to the great World Wars, all other conflicts that followed, and all the times of peace between we honor those who made the greatest of sacrifices and put their lives at risk in order to uphold and defend the greatest entitlement every human being has on this earth – freedom.
I lost my grandfather last week to a heart attack. He was 92. He was laid to rest this past Thursday. Ed Gottschalk served in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) during World War II as an engine mechanic. And, even though he was never on the front lines or ever fired a single round at an enemy combatant, he made damn sure that every single plane was at peak condition and would help bring each and every pilot and crew member back home safely.
Growing up I never really thought of my grandfather a some great war hero. He was ‘Pops’ to me. A kind man with a gentle heart and a unique sense of humor. He was truly part of the greatest generation that ever lived, and never once felt that the world ‘owed’ him anything for his service and sacrifices.
But, as he was laid to rest and an USAF honor guard accompanied his burial, I remembered how important his time of service was and the service of every man and woman who enlist and serve this country. I wept as the taps played following the firing of arms. My heart swelled as the three empty shell casings representing Duty, Honor, and Country were placed inside the flag (once draped over his casket) while it was being folded into its familiar triangular shape. I wept my hardest as it was presented to his living widow, my grandmother, and the soldier gave his condolences on behalf of the President and all the armed forces.
This was a great man who was fortunate enough to lead a great life after serving his country at a time of great need. Many that have come before him or gone after him were not so fortunate.
I may not agree with war or violence to solve our world’s problems. But I am no less thankful for the sacrifices our men and women of service made and continue to make.
So as most of us enjoy the day off, and while we are grilling out, having some drinks, and enjoying time with our families – remember. Remember all of those who fought. Remember all of those who served. Our freedom today including the ability to meet up each Sunday during the fall exists in part because of these men and women.