Grandpa in Garmisch

This is a pure reflection piece for me, but I think it’s worth sharing. My Grandpa Rich passed away 5 years ago today. I always think about him during this time of year, not just because of the anniversary of his passing, but because of the November Veteran’s Day holiday as well. For a few years prior to his passing, I would take him out for a ‘Veteran’s Day Date’ were I would drive him around to as many places in town that we could hit up for Veteran’s Day freebees or deals. It was a silly tradition, but produced memories that I will forever cherish. One year we went to Perkins for breakfast, Sport Clips for a haircut, and Panera for a to-go lunch. He didn’t have a Veteran’s ID card, so he showed off his old DD214. Anyone in my family can attest that Grandpa was an excellent record keeper (down to saving the receipt for a pair of shoes he bought 50 years earlier) so he had no trouble finding that document the first year we went out.

Our Veteran’s Day outing wasn’t really about getting free things, it was about taking the time to ask questions and pay respect to his time in the Service. There is a common American experience and culture of comradery that is shared among Veterans regardless of service branch, political party, economic background, or other cultural differences. I am not a Veteran myself, so I do not share this understanding, but I have witnessed it first hand on many accounts. I was a military spouse and VA nurse for 7 years. I have observed the highs and lows of the Veteran experience and developed a deep respect for both active military and Veteran communities.

When I first became a nurse at the VA, I was surprised to see daily social gatherings of elderly Veterans hanging out in the waiting areas. These weren’t organized events with a designated agenda or meeting space. I knew from how frequently I would see the same faces that these Veterans were generally not on campus for appointments or prescription pick up. They came solely to socialize. This practice of routine and informal Veteran hang outs makes significantly more sense to me now than it once did. I realized that these individuals were searching to find common ground with others who also belonged to the 1% of Americans who have also served in the military. And what better place than the VA lobby? The thought of those familiar faces, each proudly sporting his or her hat with patches from time served, brings a smile to my face. I have been lucky enough to care for Veterans with a wide range of service-connected diagnoses and from a span of war eras including a handful of WWII Veterans. Even the busiest 12-hour shift provided opportunity to hear their stories. These first-hand accounts are a dwindling and undoubtedly overlooked piece of history that I wish could be carefully preserved.

Back to Grandpa Rich. First and foremost, my Grandpa was a family man. I can’t talk about him being a Veteran before I talk about that. Grandpa was the kind of person you looked at and just knew he was good. Between the kind eyes and constant smile, he had a joy that was contagious.Grandpa Rich was drafted during the Korean war and was stationed in Germany, so he wasn’t in combat, but nonetheless dedicated time away from his family, toward the mission of freedom. He served for 2 years and returned home to work delivering newspapers, later retiring from this profession.He lived the American Dream in a time when that seemed truly attainable and I don’t think he took it for granted either. Grandpa set a prime example of what a faith-filled, loyal, and kind-hearted man looked like. I am thankful for the lasting influence this made on my life.

Before Austin and I moved to Germany, my mom found some old pamphlets and maps that had belonged to my Grandfather. We always knew he spent time in Germany, but didn’t know details of the exact location. If the name of the cities had been mentioned to us, the details never carried much meaning since they were in such an unfamiliar place. When sorting through his old memorabilia, we found that he was a lot closer to [what would be] our new home than we realized.

My Grandma also found a stack of old photos and short notes that Grandpa had written during his time stationed here from 1951-1952. After studying the faded writing, I realized that many of these photos were taken in Garmisch – the town where we were about to move! This whole time we were pursuing moving here we had no idea. Austin and I were drawn to Garmisch for the Bavarian culture, natural beauty, and US job opportunities here. It was clear through his annotations that Grandpa loved this place and visited it multiple times during his relatively short post in Germany. He had photo collections of the Zugspitze, nearby lakes, and even some buildings that still exist in the area.

So, what’s the point? I guess I’m just saying that it’s amazing how the world works. I am extremely blessed by my family and the upbringing I had. Moving far away from them was the hardest part of this process. I miss my family dearly, but I can honestly say that I think about them just as much if not more now that I am physically further away. I love our phone calls and cherish the visits we do get. I notice that life is slower paced in Germany than it was in the US, warranting time to reflect on what is most important. I find myself in awe of simple things here. Things like a snowcapped mountain, the dull ring of cow bells, wildflowers in a grassy pasture, or an unpolluted star lit night make me deeply grateful on the daily. I look around and can’t help but believe this must be similar to what heaven is like. I believe in my heart that Grandpa recognized the same beauty in Garmisch and this makes me feel even more connected to being here.

Was it coincidence or luck that brought us to this exact place in Germany? I am not sure that I believe in fate, but I do know that I am meant to be here at this moment in my life. I look forward to continuing to appreciate the beauty around me, focusing on physical and spiritual wellness. On the same token, I encourage everyone reading to slow down a little this upcoming holiday season. Ask questions to someone who may be struggling and pay respect to life in all its forms. Hug your loved one a little tighter and allow yourself to be humbled by the thought that things may be interconnected beyond our human comprehension. Spread joy on a small scale by smiling from the soul like Grandpa did.

Written and dedicated with love to Grandma Marilyn


  1. What a great tribute to your grandfather! He was truly special! I enjoyed reading about your time together! what a cute picture of the two of you!

  2. A beautiful homage and tribute to your Papa Rich….I can see Dad smiling down from heaven…. reflecting on the influence he had on “you” and the whole family. Being a grandfather now myself, I can look back to Dad’s examples and interactions with his grandchildren to be the “Best Papa” I can be.

    My heart is pounding with pride❤️💕

    Love and miss both You & Austin

  3. Absolutely beautiful tribute! I love seeing the pictures and hearing your memories. I agree 100% about how special our veterans are and how many will not understand their little “meetings” in the VA lobbies are so important. Thank you for sharing! Miss your face in the place.

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