I just finished Flags of Our Fathers, which I highly recommend as good history and good reading. I put the book back into my suitcase, which happens to be in my father's room in my grandparents' house. Once I put the book in, I looked up at the wall of the room and found myself face to face with another relic from the same era as the story of Flags.
My grandfather is currently in his eighties, yet he behaves as though he is much younger. He never went overseas to fight, but he spent the war years as a bomber pilot in the Army Air Force. All he got to bomb were targets in the New Mexico desert, since he was sent to a base in Alamogordo to be an instructor. Things must have been fairly routine, even on the one fateful day which is commemorated on the wall above my suitcase - and in my grandpa's wallet.
You see, my grandpa is a member of the Caterpillar Club. He showed us his card a few years back and told us of a day when one of the engines on his plane gave out. He tried to keep the bird in flight, but found he couldn't, and he and his crew had to don parachutes and jump. Back before there was any concept of packing a parachute according to the weight of the person who would be wearing it, my grandpa and his crew landed safely. The framed account of the event hanging on the bedroom wall contains a picture of the wreckage of the B-17. It also contains two certficates attesting to the success of my grandpa's emergency landing, and one letter from Cole of California, manufacturers of the parachute that saved his life:
Your interesting "jump" story was publicly read to all employees of our parachute plant , who are extremely pleased that the product of their labors was instrumental in your safe landing.
I am one extremely pleased granddaughter, I must say. Without that parachute, one of the kindest, sweetest of people in my life would not be here, and his great-grandson (i.e., the little guy) wouldn't get the chance to know him.
Yet another thing to be thankful for on this holiday weekend...