When Veterans Day rolled around last week, I thought a lot about my dad and my uncle and their own personal times in the service.

My dad was Joe Baldinus. Although he was born in Chicago, lived in Yuma, graduated from Mesick, worked in Pontiac, moved to Harrietta, several locations in Cadillac, and later worked as a draftsman at what was Miller’s in Reed City for a good many years, a good many of you knew him too.

He drove back and forth from Cadillac to work. He didn’t move here because I didn’t want to change schools when I was so close to graduating.

Veterans Day. Dad was a hero. Well, at least in his grandkids’ eyes.

He told them his war stories, and my youngest son wrote about one of those stories, and turned it in at school. When it came home with his other schoolwork some time later, I read it and had to praise my son’s penmanship and his writing ability.

I totally wanted to beat on my dad.

You see, my son wrote about his grandpa, the hero. He told about how Grandpa Baldinus had gone off to war and when he realized the enemy was headed his way, he took his army blanket and stretched it out over a log. Then he grabbed his gun and hid high up in a tree.

When the enemy got close enough, they just started shooting up the log, and my son said that once they were out of ammo, his grandpa just captured them all.

That wasn’t quite the truth.

In fact, not an ounce of it.

Dad did go into the service. I was a baby at the time. My mom lived alone with me at a house near my maternal grandparents in Harrietta, Bob and Sadie Freeman.

My paternal grandparents, Wendel and Julia Baldinus lived a few miles to the north in Yuma.

They had lost a son, Lawrence Baldinus (my Uncle Larry) at Guadalcanal. I never met him, but I read about him. He was a pilot. I have his purple heart, his Navy Cross and some of his paperwork and pictures.

Yet, I wasn’t born before he died. I never knew him, but I know about him.

My dad was in the service a short time, stationed in an office on a base in Illinois. He never left the U.S. He never fought in any battle or shot his weapon except in training.

My mom succeeded in getting him discharged maybe a month after he went in. Her nerves were bad, she had this wonderful new baby (me), no transportation, and neither set of grandparents could drive.

So dad got discharged, sent home, and took care of his family.

I had a cousin, Hank, who was in the service, and I saw my Grandpa Baldinus and Uncle Sandy both in uniforms.

I did have a great-grandfather who really was in the Civil War. I have his military papers, and I have what I’ve been told about and read about my Uncle Larry.

I don’t have his military papers, but some day when time permits, I would like to.

My sons and daughter know the truth about Grandpa’s story-telling. They love him anyway.

Then this week, I attended the Norman Elementary Veterans Day program, and my heart broke for so many of the kids and grandkids in that school. Little ones who have had to grow “this old” already knowing the loss of a daddy or an uncle, an older brother, or a grandpa they never met, who really died in a real war.

And saw the pain on the face of a lady who lit a candle for a son, cradling a granddaughter who held Grandma tightly too.

The overpowering reality of it all.

Driven home to the heart by the little people, and those who teach them, and raise them, and love them, and share their families and soldiers, their sailors and others.