Family Matters,  the sticks

My Favorite Veteran


When I’m out in the sticks visiting my mom, I often walk over to the retirement home that my Grandpa lives in around the block and have coffee with him. Coffee is free and I usually need a cup pretty bad since my mom is not a coffee drinker. It’s a perfect time for us to visit.

visiting with Grandpa

Sometimes my Grandpa tells stories about the two years he was stationed in England during World War Two—little gems here and there. You never really know what he’s going to share with you.

Bug and Grandpa Coyle

My Grandpa wasn’t a war hero or anything, in fact he never even really got to serve. He was trained to be an air traffic controller but he was one of three guys ready for the job. The other two guys worked out so his services were never needed. When you ask my Grandpa about being a war veteran he always kind of shrugs sheepishly because he pretty much did nothing but kick around London for two years. Not a bad life for twenty-something-year-old.

my grandpa

Today my Grandpa told me the story of how he got drafted. He was living with his mother and her new husband at the time and he wasn’t really getting along with the new husband. Apparently they had a disagreement over how to build a fire. I know how men can be about building fires. I’ve seen Toby and his brother disagree over the art of fire-building myself and believe me there was some tension in the room.

Anyway, I guess the new husband thought he could build a fire by stacking up newspapers flat and then setting the logs on top. Even I know that won’t work and I’ve never been a girl scout. So when my Grandpa corrected his stepfather I guess things got pretty uncomfortable. It’s hard to imagine my Grandpa being confrontational. He’s not a fighter at all. I’m sure he decided to leave long before they kicked him out.

That day my Grandpa walked down to the Army Recruiters office to see where his name was in the draft. The woman who worked there couldn’t find his file anywhere and told him to go home and count his blessings. That is where my Grandpa says he went wrong. He confides that he got to talking to the woman. She was a good looking girl and I guess things got a little flirtatious. It’s funny to hear my Grandpa tell these stories because my Grandpa isn’t really the flirtatious type. He is charming though. I will say that.

me and Gramps

They got to talking and he stayed too long. Eventually she found his file. It had fallen down behind her desk drawer. He was shipped off to England two days later. Funny how things work out.

me and my Grandpa

But I’m glad my Grandpa spent two years in England. He fell in love with my Grandma during those two years. They had only just met right before he shipped out. I think my Grandma was even seeing someone else at the time but they decided to stay in touch with letters anyway. They wrote letters every day. It makes you wonder what might have happened if things had happened differently.


  • beyond

    what a beautiful story. i totally see a family resemblance. every time i see my grandfather, i make him tell me stories, and what a treat it always is.

  • Kuky

    That was a lovely story. I don’t have a grandfather. But I know I would have loved hearing old stories from him. I can remember how much I loved hearing stories of my dad when I was little…well still do.

  • Carrie

    I cannot help but feel a huge sigh of relief that he never saw any action. My grandfather was injured twice during WWII in Europe and until the day he died he never ever talked about the things he saw. To think that your grandfather doesn’t hold those terrible memories makes my heart a little lighter.

  • Laura

    I’m a huge WWII buff, especially the sociological aspects so this story just made me so happy and I am all smiley. But, I have to know, was the woman at the recruiting office your Grandma? If so, that makes this story even sweeter.

  • Becky

    I’m glad you wrote about Grandpa. I like hearing his stories too. I’m glad you are able to visit him from time to time. Those are nice pictures of both of you. :)

  • angelique

    He’s got such a friendly smile. You’re blessed to have such a relationship with your grandfather and that Bug gets to share in it, too.

  • Jennifer

    Your grandpa is so cute. I love this story.

    My grandpa served as a Marine in WWII. He liberated a concentration camp, among other harrowing experiences. He would never talk about his time in Europe, but had horrible night terrors that lasted till the day he died. I empathize with Carrie’s words.

  • a chris

    My grampie was one of the lucky ones too; he never even went overseas. I have it in my head that he was trained for something paperworky. Funny, I don’t know if I ever knew exactly. He was certainly a quiet man. According to my grammie, it was mildly dangerous NOT going to fight in that climate, because of the bitterness of some who had gone, were going, or had a loved one go! She was pretty protective, and was certainly happy he wasn’t sent. I don’t know how he felt about it. She talked much, much more than he did!

    My parents’ next-door neighbour, though, saw action. It was the only time he went to Europe after moving to Canada from England as a toddler, and he never wanted to go back. Prefers not to talk about it.

  • Ninabi

    What a wonderful story. I love the last picture- you look beautiful and so happy with your grandpa. I’m glad you have him and that Bug knows him, too.

  • Ruth

    What a fabulous story. I love hearing old stories from relatives that you’d never think they could tell. Your grandfather is precious!

  • RaeAnne

    That is such a sweet story. :) My dad was shipmates in the Navy with my mom’s ex-husband; my mom’s ex introduced them (after they were divorced, obviously!), they hit it off, and they were married for 29 years until my dad passed away.

  • gingermog

    Hi SAJ,

    Was your grandfather stationed outside of London or did he actually live in London itself? I guess he was in the RAF or the US equivalent. Anyway I am charmed to think your granddad probably walked the same streets as I do and the same buildings are familiar to us both. Very likely he knew the Piccadilly/Soho area well and in some respects it hasn’t changed much since the 40’s, Foyles books shop is still there, some Italian coffee shops and the Windmill Theatre).

    Do you know if he was in London for the VE day celebrations? I was showing my students some photos of wartime London the other day and telling them about how exciting it was when the Piccadilly lights were switched on again after the WW2 (of course I wasn’t there but my Dad was). Like your grandfather he didn’t actually see action as the war ended just as he turned of service age but he was a fire watcher from the age of 14 ( putting out fires from incendiary bombs on top of buildings).

    I’m so glad your grandfather came home safe to his family (and made a new family). Lovely story. As Armistice Day has just past here its good to be reminded of the true life stories of our veterans. Please tell him thank you from me.

  • Kathy K

    Oh Brenda! Your Grandpa is just prescious! I love the pictures of the two of you together. He does have the sweetest, grandpa face. All of my grandparents, except for one grandma, had passed before I was born, so I never really had a grandpa of my own. Thanks for sharing your grandpa with all of us. Great post!

  • Jen

    He looks like a GEM!! I miss the letter-writing era. I still have a lot of letters that I got from friends and such before there was this thing called the internet. I kind of miss those days.

  • Anna-b-bonkers

    Such a swell story! So much like my grandpa only….well never mind that, just similar in that he never made it to the actual fighting. He never got out of Canada actually!
    Another story all together. Anyway, I love the pictures, especially the one of him standing at the top of the stairs with the light above his head…like a halo. :-)

  • Clownfish

    I’m sure it would be fun meeting him someday. I enjoy yacking it up with any Vet.

    The Veteran I was most grateful for was my Uncle Doug. He was the Commander of the Supply Corp for the Navy in Naples, Italy. My destroyer stopped there twice and each time I got a 3 day pass. How great to hang out with my Uncle, Aunt and cousins in Italy. It was truly the highlight of each of those deployments.

    I hope your Grandpa had a very nice Veterans Day!