COMMENTARY | I never knew my granddad Frederick Barnhart since he died roughly 20 years before I was born as the result of wounds he suffered while serving on the western front during World War I, the war they said to end all wars.
Granddad Fred was a medic, whose job it was to crawl around the mud of No Man’s Land and succor wounded soldiers who had been cut down after going over the top to assault German positions. I don’t know too much about him, but I suspect that he got more than a little grief because of his last name. Political correctness where it came to ethnic bias had not been invented in 1918.
I do know that he caught a whiff of gas while on of his missions to save his fellow American soldiers. That is what killed him, though he did not actually die until 20 years or so later. That was enough time for him to come home, get married to my grandmother, and sire two children, my mom and my aunt, before finally dying as the result of the damage that gas attack inflicted on his lungs.
My grandmother, who I remember fondly as a sweet old lady, as most boys remember their grandmothers, must have been a formidable lady back then. She had to have been to be a single mom, raising two rambunctious girls in the teeth of the Great Depression and then World War II. It was not something I recognized fully on those many family trips, first to Pennsylvania, then to Florida. She died, well mourned, in the late 1970s.
I rather wish I had made Granddad Frederick’s acquaintance. He was one of those countless young men who had their lives shortened so that the rest of us could live free. All I can say is, rest in peace granddad, and thank you for your service.