My father’s father, Frank, was the only grandparent I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. To the credit of my Dad and my Grammy I feel like I know the essence of who he was. I grew up on stories and pictures and was awfully touched when my Dad said that I briefly looked like him when I made an expression.
Franklyn Emanuel Kessler was a proud man with a sense of humor and a strong sense of doing what was right. He joined the Marines when he was seventeen, just before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He was sent to Okinawa, Japan as a pilot and seemed like a fun guy to be around. He did some reckless things, played in a band, and sounded like an all around goofy guy.
There are many stories that stick out but there is one in particular I want to share. On the night into morning of May 24-25, 1945, exactly seventy-four years ago today, there was a Japanese suicide attack at Yontan Airfield where my Grandfather was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. When the commandos landed on their airfield a Sergeant and Lieutenant drove an armed jeep into the fray to help minimize the damage the suicide commandos could create.
My grandpa gathered a group of Marines and ran after the jeep to help. He kept running and didn’t realize that his fellow fighters had turned around and run for cover because of the sheer amount of bullets showering onto the airfield. Suddenly a grenade hit the jeep holding the Sergeant and Lieutenant. Frank was standing in the middle of a battle field, in a storm of bullets, with the smoking remains of the jeep holding his fellow soldiers inside.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’ll tell you what he did. He ran to the jeep and saw the Sergeant was dead but the Lieutenant, missing an eye and an arm, seemed to be alive. Either way he couldn’t win. If he stayed he would probably be shot. If he ran he would probably be shot. So I guess there was one answer…take the most hopeful option. He pulled the Lieutenant from the car and ran. He ran all the way to the hospital tent not knowing if he would make it. HE DID.
The medical staff asked if he was shot. He didn’t know. He was covered in blood but numbed by the trauma. Miraculously he was not shot and, miraculously, the Lieutenant survived.
After that experience my Grandpa’s demeanor was different. Previously when people would say, “Hey Kess, how are you?” he would be jovial. Now he just said, “My name is Frank and I just want to go home.”
Both my Grandpa and the Lieutenant were awarded Bronze Stars for their bravery. When he and Grammy were on their honeymoon they were able to reconnect with the Lieutenant. He gave my Grandpa the Bronze Star he was awarded to thank him for saving his life.
Grandpa Frank went on to marry my Grammy and they had my Dad. Based on what I know they both influenced my Dad’s personality. He is goofy, dedicated to his family, and he’s willing to put himself on the line to help those around him.
This Memorial Day Weekend let’s take time out of our day to remember those who have fought for our freedom whether in the military or civilians. We have a long way to go for full equality in our country but I am thankful for the people, past present, and future, standing up and fighting for our rights.