As I sat down to write my column this week, I had an outline prepared for my topic about the travel bucket list, popular destinations for 2017, and our travel expo this coming Friday. However, my heart took over once again and I could not stop thinking about a much more important event on Friday, November 11th: Veterans Day.
I think about Veterans and their sacrifices often, from someone wearing a hat in a grocery store to a bumper sticker on a car, or the stories I hear from various clients. Occasionally, one of my Facebook memory photos will pop up and show my favorite Veteran and grandfather, Ned Cundick. One of the best pictures is of a young Grandpa Ned in his Navy uniform, dancing with my grandmother while he was on leave.
You may have heard my stories before about Grandpa Ned, but as they say, we should never forget and I think it is important to share it again this time of year. Grandpa Ned was truly a member of the greatest generation. He came from humble beginnings and left high school to serve in the Navy during World War II. When he returned, he married my grandmother, worked two jobs, and went back to school at night to obtain his coveted high school diploma. My son is now the same age as my grandpa was when we left for the war. I can’t imagine what it was like for my great grandmother to send her son off and for my grandmother, his sweetheart to wait for him to return home. Even though it has been a few years since he passed away, I always get emotional when I think of his sacrifices at such a young age – especially on Veterans Day.
Before my grandfather passed away and was healthy enough to travel, I created a priceless vacation memory with him. We traveled with my mother and grandmother to Washington, D.C. We had the opportunity to pay our respects to our Veterans at various monuments, memorials, and museums including Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima, Korean War, Vietnam, Holocaust Museum, and more.
The most memorable stop on that tour was the World War II Memorial honoring the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people.
I will never forget the emotion that overcame our family as we visited the World War II Memorial. Listening to my grandparent’s stories about World War II and watching my mother as she saw the names of her friends on the Vietnam wall is something that I will never forget.
From Pearl Harbor to the beaches of Normandy, there are many opportunities to honor our Veterans on vacations all over the world. They say travel brings history to life. You can read about events in a text book, but to be there in person and experience the feeling of these sacred places around the world is a vacation you will cherish forever. You return with more appreciation for those who sacrificed so much…I know I do.