Hi, I’mJoni, and you’re listening to Joni and Friends. And today’sVeterans Day, and my friend Shauna and I – hi, Shauna, how you doing?
SHAUNA: Hi there, Joni.
JONI: We are honoring all the men and women who have served in our armed forces. It’s kind of a sobering day, isn’t it, Shauna?
SHAUNA: It sure is.
JONI: Because in so many ways it’s a reminder of the tremendous sacrificesthat our warriors have made. Many times coming home with a debilitating disability – things we’ll never even know about or understand, and while I’m glad we recognize our Veterans on Veterans Day, it’s really something we should do every single day, isn’t it?
SHAUNA: I could not agree more with that, Joni. Veterans Day is so, so meaningful to me. And, you know, often on Veterans Day, I can’t help but remember the last Veterans Day that I got to celebrate with my grandfather. His name was Jerry Gagnon.
JONI: Okay, was he a Veteran?
SHAUNA: He sure was. A World War II Vet. I called him Papa. The last Veterans Day we got to spend together, we went to a little tiny town inLyndeborough, New Hampshire of all places. (JONI: Okay.) Where they had an 1844 brass cannon. And on the11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (JONI: Okay.) on Veterans Day (JONI:Right.), they would fire that canon three times to salute all Veterans, past and present, who have served so, so honorably in defense of our country. (JONI: Wow.) And the tradition is that the oldest Veteran there was the one who got the honor of firing the cannon.
JONI: Okay, I’m going to guess it might be Papa. Am I right?
SHAUNA:You are right! Everyone was expecting someone else. They thought that somebody else, somebody actually a Vietnam Vet was going to be the one to have that honor that day. And as that gentleman started walking toward the cannon, I very quietly said, “Excuse me, sir …”
SHAUNA:“… but, we do have a World War II Veteran here today.”
JONI: Oh, I bet everybody gasped.
SHAUNA: You know it. You could hear it. Everybody gasped. And it was like theparting of the Red Sea, Joni; they just moved to the side.And, oh, at that point, Papa was 86. But in that moment, I’m telling you, he was 18.
JONI:I’m sure, you know, because not many World War IIVeterans are surviving now.
SHAUNA: That’s right.
JONI: Very few. So it must have been quite something for everyone to witness.
SHAUNA:It was so beautiful. He just stood straight and marched up to that cannon, and he got that honor of firing it three times. And as he did, I know I was crying, but really, as I looked around, everyone just had these tears of pride and joy. And everyone there after wanted to shake Papa’s hand. (JONI: Okay.) So, of course, that happened. And when everyone was done with that and we finally walked back to the car,Papa quietly took his hand out of his pocket, and he unwrapped it; he had put a hankie; he unwrapped it and it just revealed his bloodied hand.
JONI: What happened?
SHAUNA: Just the age and the thinness of his skin –
JONI: Was there a kickback from the – ?
SHAUNA: Thekickback from the cannon(JONI: Oh, my goodness.) just shred his hand. But he was not going to let anyone know that, other than me. (JONI: Wow.) And so, I got the honor of tending to his bloody hand. And even in that moment, I was able to recognize the silent sacrifice that our warriors make for all of us. For you, for me, right?
JONI: You know, I’m listening to you and I’m thinking of that Bible verse: Greater love has no one than this – to lay down his life for one’s friends. Or in this case, for fellow Americans, right? None of our Soldiers fully know what to expect when they embark on their service. But all of them have sacrificed something, haven’t they?
SHAUNA: Well, that’s for sure. And we certainly don’t want to take that for granted. And that was my last Veterans Day with Papa. He died just a couple months after at 86. But I will be forever grateful that God gave us that special day, not just honoring Papa, but giving me a special memory to carry forward.
JONI:Well, Shauna, this story reminds me that we havethe honor of serving our wounded American servicemen and women at our Warrior Getaways. Go to joniradio.org, would you, and watch a very special video we have waiting for you right there. Watch that video in their honor at joniradio.org.