On this Veteran’s Day, I honor my grandpa who, rather than go to war, joined Civilian Public Service (CPS) as a Conscientious Objector (CO) during Word War II.
He left a young wife and did not return, except on brief furloughs, for four years. My dad, born during that time, wondered who this visiting stranger was.
Rather than destroy, Grandpa, like the many other men in CPS, helped build the infrastructure of this country. They made fences, harvested food, built roads and dams, planted trees, worked in mental hospitals (and as a result helped change the quality of care of mental patients). They gave their sweat, toil, and sometimes, their lives, to care for this land and her people.
His younger brother was killed by a tree at another CPS camp, one of the many casualties that occurred among these men, deaths that are not memorialized in monuments or with parades. Grandpa never recovered from losing his brother or those four years of his life.
When he returned, they called him yellow. How unkind and so very untrue.
Life was never easy for my grandpa, but he was one of the most courageous men I have ever known, willing to face adversity, leave family and community, go against the flow, because his conscience and God forbade him from taking the life of another. His faith was something strong and real. His ultimate allegiance was to the Prince of Peace and to the Kingdom above all nations and kings.
Grandpa passed away ten year s ago. He will never receive a medal nor would he want one anyway.
But he is the unknown “soldier” I honor on this Veteran’s Day.