On July 2, 1942, almost seven months after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather, John Kubik, was inducted into the Army in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A fresh-faced 21-year-old, he was the third of seven children to his Czechoslovakian parents who immigrated to the United States when he was a toddler (we didn’t learn until my grandfather was in his 80s that he actually knew some of the native Czech language!). Although a farmer’s son, my grandfather always did have an engineering brain. And while in the Army, he put that brain to good use inventing a piece of valuable equipment still used today, even though he’s never been recognized for it.
While in the the Army, armor battalion, my grandfather invented dummy tank shells that could be used for training exercises. Up until that point, all servicemen practiced with live shells. The invention of dummy shells allowed for live ammunition to be saved for combat - not to mention saving the government millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, while my grandfather was in the Army, his father was killed in an automobile accident. My grandfather was honorably discharged after only 21 months of service to return home and care for his mother, five sisters, and the family farm since he was the only male left in the family (his older brother, also in the service, was married and had his own family).
My grandfather never received any recognition for his valuable invention. Despite the massive impact it has had on all branches of our military, he never heard one thank you or was paid one dollar. And he never told the story boastfully, in fact I think it came out in a casual conversation about his time spent in the Army, stunning everyone in the family.
Reflecting on Memorial Day, this story of my grandfather came to mind. It challenged me and gave me a new perspective. Every serviceman and woman has a story worth being told and listened to. Worth being recognized. I don’t want their contribution, like my grandfather’s, to be buried in the annals of time. At a coffee shop where I used to work, there was a regular who would always pay for the order of any military customer who came in wearing a uniform - we almost didn’t even have to ask - we’d put it on his tab and he’d come up with his credit card a little while later. Coffee probably isn’t enough, but it’s a start.
After a move to Florida, a long career working for Lockheed Martin, fathering three children and seeing seven grandchildren, my grandfather passed away at the ripe old age of 93. The great loves of his life were Jesus, my grandmother, gardening, fishing, and square dancing. His name isn’t on any patent or even on a plaque somewhere, but this Memorial Day, it’s him I’m remembering.
Thank you to all our active servicemen and women, reserves, veterans, and fallen heroes.
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