Knitting to commemorate the First World War

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Veteran’s Day Brings Odd Memories

Grandpa and Dad

November 11 in the USA is celebrated at Veteran’s Day.  It was originally proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919, but in 1954 was changed to the current title in order to honor all those who died while serving in the US military.  While working on my knitting project for this film, it occurred to me that we’ve had a huge effort in the last few decades to remember and celebrate the veterans of WW II.  Perhaps it was because comparatively few people remain who remember that war and that time, and we have had at our disposal a great many options for recording their images and their history.  It spurred me to look a bit into my own family history.

Alas, I found very little.  My paternal grandfather, Otto, has a draft card on file for WWI, but I could find no record of his service. It’s possible that, being in his 20s, he was considered too old at the time, or else he was rejected for a health reason.  Grandpa Otto died in August 1959, just 2 months after I was born.  I never knew him.  In fact, about all I ever knew of him was that he died of a massive stroke.

My dad was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes at an early age; thus, he was never eligible to serve in WW II as his brothers did.  He did his part, however, as a mechanic of some kind working at a local Air Force base (well, it was the Army Air Corps then).  In fact, I have a job now in which I work for a defense contractor on that base.  I joke with my workmates, many of whom are retired military, that I am a congenital civilian.

My dad died on Veteran’s Day in 1979.  It seems a tenuous connection, I’m sure, but every year when this date rolls around I am reminded of him, of how he played “Taps” at the various memorial services our little town held to commemorate those who served and those whose lives were lost.  For a man who was never served a day in uniform, he did everything he could from the sidelines during the war and after it.  I expect that was something he learned from his father.

I was just 20 years old when my dad died.  I barely knew him, really.  He was so ill in those last years of his life, in pain from various surgeries to try to correct all of the genetic problems he was born with.  I like to think that he sees me now, along with all of the grandmothers and grandfathers who did their part at home or on a battle field, knowing that I am doing what I can to knit their love and memories into a film project that will bring to life a few people from that era.  They worked hard; they sacrificed much; they left behind so many little lessons for us, among them how to make do when a bit of yarn and a basic pattern.  We will remember them by the work of our hands.

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2 responses

  1. It’s so interesting reading these family stories of those in our knitting army.

    November 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

  2. Very touching Judith xx

    November 10, 2013 at 11:30 am

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