I remember an assignment in middle school that required us to interview our hero and then write a report about their life and legacy. In my mind, there was no greater hero than my grandpa. After all, he was a key male figure in my life who always had strong arms and sound advice to give.
My dad drove me over to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm and began to set up my interview space in the living room of their home. Now, my parents were the type to record everything. No matter what was going on, you’d typically see my mom or dad with that classic 1990’s video camera over their shoulder capturing every small detail and memory. My interview with Grandpa, you better believe, was recorded, forever encapsulating that moment in time. And for that, I will always be grateful.
There was a chair for Grandpa, and then facing his, a chair for myself. I had prepared my questions with the help of my dad and had them neatly written on a piece of paper, ready to read them off as soon as Dad hit “RECORD”. First, I had questions about his parents and childhood. Then, questions about his education, love life, and career. Last, my dad suggested I ask him questions about his time in the service.
Now, Grandpa never talked about his time in the service. That may be part of the reason why my dad added those questions in — partially because he was curious as well. But, for some reason, at that moment in time, Grandpa opened up to me. And even though I have the VHS tape still to this day, my core memory from that interview is when Grandpa started telling war stories.
My mouth hung open with awe as he described what it was like to fly a B-25 in World War II and told stories about flying overhead as enemy bullets pierced the floor of the plane, creating a trail of damage from front to back.
To be honest, I initially said he was my hero because he was the kindest, strongest man I knew, but when I listened to his stories from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, the term hero took on a different meaning for me. Grandpa repeatedly chose to take on a challenge so others didn’t have to — and that left me with an entirely different respect for the man.
Fast forward 18 years and my grandfather is still my biggest hero. But, now that he’s passed, it’s my job to keep his legacy alive within my own children. One way in which I can share his legacy through experience is by visiting his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. We have a family pass, so we are able to visit year-round. However, last year, we chose to visit his grave in December, during Wreaths Across America.
Upon parking, we entered the cemetery and I was immediately taken aback at the somber, yet beautiful, sight of 400,000+ perfectly aligned grave markers, each displaying a holiday wreath in remembrance. We found Grandpa’s gravesite, placed a hand on his headstone, laid his wreath, and said his name: Major Wilmer Floyd Noser. Grandpa.
That day, I shared memories of my grandpa with my children. I re-told his war stories as they looked at me with the same astonished look I had as a child, and as we walked the hallowed grounds and watched the changing of the guard, I explained how important places like Arlington National Cemetery are so that we’re able to honor and remember each fallen servicemember who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.
My kids may not yet fully grasp the sacrifices that each of these servicemen, servicewomen, and dependents have made, but through my grandfather, I intend to teach them about what it means to be a hero, how we can honor those who came before, and appreciate those who continue to sacrifice so others don’t have to. After all, his legacy lives on through us.
About Marissa Andrick
Marissa is a mom of three, wife to her high school sweetheart, and granddaughter of United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) Veteran, Maj. Wilmer F. Noser. She serves as the Digital Marketing Coordinator for AAFMAA and SpouseLink. In her role, she is responsible for AAFMAA and SpouseLink’s social media channels, email marketing initiatives, and website.