This celebratory Veterans Day and the exploits of my grandfather the war hero, gave me the closure I'd been searching for since his passing.
Veterans Day has always held a special place in my heart. It’s the reason why I decided that November 11th, 2012 would be the official launch of thePush. Now two years later, having produced consistent content that I am proud to say represents the Mantality Media brand to the fullest, I wish to continue this trend by letting you know why this day, in the year 2013 will forever be a nostalgic one for me.
My entire life I’ve been a history buff. Heck, the first profession I ever wanted to pursue was that of an archaeologist. Maybe it had something to do with the fictitious exploits of Indiana Jones. Or perhaps it was based on my sheer intrigue of days gone by.
Either way, I still yearn to know more about those who came before us, the one's that left a distinct mark upon time allowing all of mankind to continue reaping their rewards for today. I remember sitting in history class as early as Catholic elementary school when the teacher first introduced the subject of World War II; and how even then in the early 1990s, it was difficult to grasp the concept that genocide had only taken place roughly 50 years before.
As I moved on to high school and my knowledge and fascination of WWII became more prevalent, I came to fully appreciate the men and women who gave so much, so that we, the future citizens of the world, could live without the threat of oppression, dictatorship or mass extermination.
You see, my feelings of gratefulness and blissful admiration were spearheaded by my grandfather, Michael Calendrillo I. I always knew that “Poppy” (as I lovingly referred to him), was a WWII veteran who enlisted in the Army at the tender age of 17, and soon found himself smack dab in the middle of the European front at the height of the conflict, 1943.
What I'd come to find out as I matured to an age of understanding was that my grandfather was a highly decorated serviceman who specialized in demolitions as part of the 89th Infantry. As my grandfather explains so eloquently in the heart-wrenching documentary “Nightmares End,” (see below) is how he and the rest of his platoon were the first unit in all of WWII to come across a Nazi concentration camp on April 4th, 1945. The camp will forever be known as Ohrdruf, named after the town of the same designation.
Despite this, my grandfather absolutely loved the Armed Services. He was a spit-shine, law and order type of guy who would give all he had to the cause. After fulfilling his military obligation, he even re-enlisted for three more years to see Europe post-war.
Throughout the rest of his life, though, the family patriarch would struggle with horrific nightmares of what he witnessed on that misty morning in war-torn Germany. Despite this, the man for whom my father was named after, and subsequently I, was chock full of vigor, love, compassion, and an amazing personality right up until July 2013, when he passed away at the age of 87.
A key piece of advice for all generations to come is spoken from the mouth of Michael Calendrillo at 7:35 of the documentary.
“People shouldn’t forget--gotta make sure these things never happen again. You gotta stop things before they even get started.”
Losing a loved one is never easy on a family, especially when that person has shaped the men in said family into who they are today. But the passing of my grandfather made me come to even a greater realization of just how fortunate I am.
Because if just one single occurrence had played out differently for Michael Calendrillo I in WWII, my grandfather on my mother’s side (Joseph Raymond Pizzi) during the Korean Conflict, or my mentor and father, Michael Calendrillo II during the Vietnam War, I wouldn’t be here today.
So if you have ever had someone put their life on the line for this country and were blessed with the opportunity of them coming home to tell their tale, you are truly fortunate. For those that have lost someone to the horrors of war, you forever have my sympathies; I wish you nothing but peace.
“I’m sorry for breaking down like that.”
“I think it’s important you told your story.”
“Maybe--maybe I needed that. If anybody don’t believe that this thing happened, then I wish they were there for a few seconds--just to see.
Yeah, I feel better now.”
Thank you, Poppy. You stood up for what you believed in and I'm honored to share your name. We need more men like you. I needed this--I too feel better now.