On November 11 each year, Americans across the United States spend time to pay respect to veterans who served our country. It is a day to remember the brave actions of the ones who have fought for our freedoms.
Personally, Veterans Day is an important holiday to me. Both of my great-grandfathers on my dad’s side of the family served in the army during World War II. Each year on Veterans Day, I think about them and what they did to serve for the U.S.
My grandma’s father, John Pater, originally immigrated from Czechoslovakia to Buffalo, New York with his mother in the early 1900’s. They both lived with his grandmother, but, eventually, Pater’s mother moved back to Czechoslovakia to be with her husband. Pater tried to go back to his home country too, but he wasn’t able to leave because of the start of World War II.
Instead, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army at the age of 19. Pater served in the army as a gun crewman and was a private first class. He fought in Naples, Rheinland, Southern France, and Central Europe. After two years of service, he was honorably discharged from the army after suffering from an injury. He received many honors, including several bronze stars and an arrowhead.
After the war, my great-grandfather suffered from emotional distress and was still somewhat scared by the battles he fought in and the violence. Pater lived with his wife and Sally, my grandmother, along with Kathy and Linda, my great aunts, in a house near the airport. Every time a plane flew over their house, Pater would run and hide under the bed, in fear that bombs were being dropped from the sky.
Even though the war took an emotional toll on him, Pater was a very proud American, according to Sally Tysiac, my grandmother. He wanted to serve and wanted to protect the country that he loved.
Bernard Tysiac, my grandfather’s father, also served in the army during World War II. He was born in New York and his parents immigrated from to the United States from Poland. Unlike my other great-grandfather, Tysiac did not join the army willingly.
When the war broke out, the U.S. government instituted the draft, a process in which men who met certain criteria were chosen to fight in the military. When the draft was created, Tysiac was 27 years old and unmarried, making him eligible to be drafted. His uncle, who was on the government draft board, told Tysiac that he thought he would never be drafted and that even if he was, he would be put into the motor pool because he had a degree in mechanics. However, Tysiac was selected to join the army and was put in infantry.
Tysiac fought in Africa and Italy and gradually rose through the ranks. He started off as a private first class and went from corporal to sergeant to staff sergeant. My great-grandfather was also a platoon leader and was given several honors for the way he performed his duties. He was awarded two bronze stars, including one for valor. Tysiac earned one bronze star for holding an area he and his men had, crawling out under heavy fire, dragging out one of his men who was hit, and performing first aid. He was given his second bronze star for effectively advancing the position of his men and urging them to continue going forward when they were caught in heavy fire.
Tysiac also received one of the most prestigious awards any military member can get: the purple heart. In battle, Tysiac got caught in heavy fire and was shot in the shoulder. After he was injured, Tysiac was sent back to the U.S. and was put in charge of one of the materials warehouses for the army.
Ken Tysiac, my grandfather, said that his father never talked much about his time fighting in World War II. He described him as a “reluctant hero,” who “always made sure to get his job done.” A man of few words, Tysiac was sure to perform his duties above the expectations and fight for the U.S.
I never met Tysiac because he passed away before I was born, and Pater died when I was very young. Because they are a part of my family, I always think about them and their stories on Veterans Day. All veterans deserve to be respected because they have fought to respect and protect our country. Each veteran has their own story, their own heroic account of their service. People should remember these men and women and be sure to pay their respects. We salute those brave people who have put their lives on the line to protect the United States and our freedoms and liberties.