Like most Communication majors, I wrote a lot of papers in college. A lot. I entered college wanting to be a journalist or (secretly) an author, but very few of the many assigned papers show the passion of someone who loves to write. Most of them, instead, were words and punctuation, strung together with an eye focused on word count, to, if nothing else, hit the required minimum mandated.
It’s interesting to me that (way too many) years later, a paper from a History class I was required to take sticks out in my mind. Not because I remember the actual assignment, or that I think it’s a sample of good writing, or that I even enjoyed writing it, but rather, because I interviewed my grandfather about his experience in World War II.
I remember sitting in his dimly lit living room talking with him. He was very matter-of-fact and didn’t offer much detail or description; I didn’t prod. He was, after all, deserving of my respect, even if I had given him lip so many times over the years. It wasn’t my place to make him talk about something he didn’t want to.
Because of this, my paper is littered with annotations from literary sources, with details and hard facts about his experience: how he was at the movies on the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that he was drafted into the Army, stationed in Kunming, China, that he married my grandmother while he was on leave, and ultimately came home adorned with four medals.
At one point, however, his gruff facade slipped and he shared my favorite quote of the piece, “I wanted to quit,” he says, “but I couldn’t quit, because I had to keep on going.”
Years later, I think of this quote often. When I’m having a bad day, when everything is falling apart, I think of his words, his service, his sacrifice. And that of every other veteran, and of their families. And how because of them, because they refuse to quit, because they keep on going, we are the land of the free, home of the brave.