The flag out front was the first thing most people noticed and remembered. Abigail Kempf tells us about her grandparents and what the flag meant to them and to her.
My great grandparents lived in a little yellow house in Osseo. As you walked up to the house you might have noticed the little green wire bird feeder, or maybe the beautiful crimson Mandeville flowers that climbed up the front pillars that my great grandmother took so much pride in; but what you would likely notice was the American flag flying in the middle of the yard.
My great-grandfather was a rough looking old man. His glasses were round, his hands calloused, but nothing was as harsh as his experiences in World War II. Back then he was a tall and lean Marine. He fought in more places than we can count, including Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and Si Pan. Being a Marine in the South Pacific was no easy feat. I imagine the bullets shooting past them before the boat ramp could even drop. He’d sprint up to enemy lines, lighting their fox holes on fire. He kept himself safe but being the leader of his platoon required him to keep his men safe, too. On the 21st of June 1944 he got all of his men out of the battle at Si Pan, returning multiple times for ammunition. He received the bronze star for his bravery.
My great-grandmother also sacrificed back home. She worked at the ammunition factory, where the long corridors that once held the parts to pressure cookers changed overnight into an ammunition assembly-line. She formed the fuses and welded the aerial bombs for the love of her life. Winning the war and helping her future husband were the only two things on her mind. Every day she’d race to the mail box to see if there was a letter there. These love letters held more than just a loving note; they held a secret code, hidden in shirt prices and the cost of socks, revealing the location of her loved one.
After the war, they married and built a modest home with wooden crates they hauled from the ammunition factory to hold up the roof of their little yellow house. Every morning at dawn my great-grandfather would walk out to the flag pole, attach the flag to the fraying rope, and hoist it high for every eye to see. There it stood in the middle of the yard, flowing and snapping in the wind. In the evenings, he’d go out and bring the flag in, only to repeat the same routine tomorrow. After my great grandfather could no longer make the trip across the small front yard, they placed a small flag pole from the front porch.
This little house holds many memories for me, but most were never talked about. I learned the stories from my great grandmother when my great grandfather was no longer around to tell them. But his untold stories are the ones that have had the greatest impact on my life. When I hear someone sing the national anthem, I consider my great grandparents and what they gave to our country. And I stand.
Abigail Kempf is a student at UW-Stout.