There we were, coming into the black-sanded beach of Iwo Jima. Bullets whiz by and explosions go off all around us.
Were you scared, Grandpa?
Of course I was scared. Before we got into our boat, the Captain said that there might not be any ice cream left if we didn’t hurry back.
My Grandpa served on the crew of a landing craft in the Pacific during World War II. His service was important to him, as were his shipmates. He attended crew reunions nearly every year into his eighties. We grandchildren were fascinated with his stories, though in hindsight, I doubt he fought a T-Rex dinosaur on Iwo Jima. My father and his brother would laugh and smile, also amused by the light-hearted nature of their rarely-serious father’s war stories.
The years in the uniform in his early adulthood were among the finest in a life filled with adventure. He liked sharing stories with his grandchildren and they liked to listen. Be proud of your service and talk about it.
Here are seven tips for sharing your or your family’s stories with younger children:
- Less is more. Short stories keep their attention much more than long-winded ones.
- Funny is good. We can all remember the funny way our Drill Sergeant would talk or the pranks we pulled when we were bored.
- Make dark light. Focus on what you did to overcome the fear; don’t dwell on the feelings of terror.
- Animals are great. Every kid will want to hear about the time their mother, uncle, or grandfather saw the camel outside of a zoo or a spider as big as her hand.
- Positives from service. If you were never stationed at Fort Carson you would have never met their mother. The time you spent in Afghanistan is the reason you could go to school to be a dentist. A cook on your ship taught you to make great pancakes.
- Dodge the questions. From the mouths of babes come the most awkward questions. They don’t know any better. Redirect, or use the moment to educate them on why it is a bad idea to ask a veteran if she ever killed a bad guy.
- Recover from going too far. If you share something that makes the children uncomfortable, tell a different story. The worst thing my grandpa could have done was to stop talking about his experience. It left the grandchildren thinking this period of time was terrible when he felt nearly the opposite. Use these tips when taking with a child in your life about your military service.