Thanks, Grandpa Tommy, For Saving The World

Commentator Baxter Black's grandfather was a junior petty officer in World War II. He's got no scrapbook of his service, no contacts with other veterans, no medals or pins commemorating his service. But Black honors him every day he draws a free breath.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Afghanistan and Iraq are not the only wars in the minds of many people on this holiday. Commentator Baxter Black has been thinking about an earlier conflict.

Mr. BAXTER BLACK: We were watching the history channel at Grandma's house. It was the story about the U.S.S. Enterprise being attacked. It was 1945. They were describing acts of heroism that occurred, stories of men risking their lives, staying with wounded comrades instead of swimming to safety, stories that never made the paper or were recognized, but were remembered.

It was one of those moments when my son and I were both engrossed. I said, isn't it funny that the only person in this house who really understands what we're watching is asleep in his chair? Grandpa Tommy: Kansas farm boy, junior petty officer on a rebuilt World War I destroyer, operating as a troop ship on the Pacific Ocean - now, asleep in his chair, 90-years-old.

He has no scrapbook of his service and old contact with those of his caliber who went through the caldron of war, no metals or pins commemorating his contribution. When the subject of war comes up, his lighthearted response is -I saved the world.

Well, it's his joke, and the subject changes and the opportunity to ponder his answer disappears, which is unfortunate because he and countless thousands of others did save the world. And anyone who doubts that Germany and Japan had intentions of conquering us all is deluding themselves.

Elected leaders make decisions of enormous consequence. They put the wheels of war, peace, conflict and resolution into motion. Elected leaders ride into battle, voices loud, sabers rattling, and flashbulbs popping on the backs of men like Grandpa Tommy who answered the call, and if they are lucky, come home to the welcoming arms of a thankful country.

Political leaders are honored on President's Day. Grandpa Tommy is honored on Flag Day, July 4th, December 7th, Memorial Day, and I guess every day that I draw a free breath. And I am proud, and I'm going to tell him that I appreciate that he saved the world as soon as he wakes up.

INSKEEP: The comments of Cowboy poet, philosopher, and former larger animal veterinarian Baxter Black.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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