My Grandpa

I did this interview with my grandpa for a Christian Writer's Guild assignment. Hope you enjoy his story!

Shuffling though the pile of mail on the table, Delmer spotted an envelope with the words “Selective Service” printed across the front. A sigh slipped between his lips. This was the second time he’d received a draft letter from the military. If only the draft would’ve been just a few months later, then he’d be too old to get drafted. Last time he received a draft letter during World War II, he wasn’t able to go because work had to be done on the farm. But this time was the Korean War, and he would have to go. Delmer ran his hands through his hair. He signed as a Conscientious Objector (CO), so at least he wouldn’t be fighting. But it was a still task he wished not to do.

He settled himself into the chair to contemplate what would come next. As a Mennonite, it was against his beliefs to fight in wars. Mennonite pacifists believe God called Christians to be peacemakers, (Matt. 5:9) making peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Jesus said, “For all who draw the sword, will die by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52) While not judging other Christians who join the army, pacifists believe war is inconsistent with Jesus’ way of peace. “I don’t believe in killing.” Delmer said when asked about his anti-war beliefs. “I was brought up that way. It’s wrong to kill.” So his only choice was the alternative, joining a program called 1-W.

In World War II, the government gave COs an alternative to joining the military against their beliefs, by having them work instead of fighting. After World War II, the 1-W program was developed by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). 1-W was the classification for people who did peace-work instead of going to war. They did numerous kinds of work, such as hospital work or fighting forest fires. Some did work for the government. “Instead of fighting and killing people,” says Delmer, “you were helping people.”

Many people in his community didn’t appreciate that Delmer wasn’t serving with the armed forces. Some people made fun of him because they couldn’t respect or understand his decision. “…I had to expect that anyway to start with, so it didn’t bother me.” He said. “I didn’t like to hear it, but there was nothing you could do about it.”

Delmer and his younger brother Ivan, both Conscientious Objectors, planned to go to Vermont together, along with a group of COs from the area, to do hospital work. But weeks before they would leave, a tragedy struck. Ivan was killed in a car accident at the corner near their home. “He was unconscious for two weeks before he died.” Delmer says. Because of his brother’s death, Delmer took the lonely trip to Vermont alone about a month after the area COs already left.

Once there, Delmer worked in a mental hospital, feeding and taking care of the patients, making beds, and cleaning the floors. He worked with the infirmities; the older patients. “I enjoyed it. It was kind of fun.” Delmer grinned. “They had their good days and their bad days like we do. But…I really enjoyed the work.”

He lived at the hospital, sleeping there at night and working there eight hours a day. “When we first started we worked twelve hours a day. “Those were pretty long days, but then…about eight months to a year later, they changed it to eight-hour days. After that, you had a lot of time on your own.” In their free time, the COs at the mental hospital would go skiing, paint picture by numbers, or hang out around town.

Delmer stayed positive and actually enjoyed his job, “It was something I had to do, I might as well enjoy it than find fault with it.”

However, the unpleasant task of disposing bodies of deceased patients was one thing he did not particularly enjoy. “[Since] I was with the infirmities….usually when they were [at that hospital], they died. So we had to take them down to the morgue in the basement.”

Delmer learned valuable life lessons while he was away from home, such as cherishing every moment, standing for his beliefs, and caring for others. But the most important lesson he learned was to trust in God. He found himself leaning on the Lord for strength to get though each day.

Two years later, Delmer was home but home was a lot different than when he left. “It was a rat race around here when I came back compared to when I was out in Vermont.” explains Delmer. “Everybody was busy, busy, busy.” Delmer was different as well. He was a stronger Christian and person. He overcame uncertainty, tragedy, adversity, and maintained a positive attitude though it all. This experience shaped my Grandpa to become the man he is today: the best grandfather I could ever ask for.

Comments

  1. Wow, what a great read Sarah! Grandpa really opened up to you. Great job! Keeping a positive attitude in life is hard, but a trait that is needed in these times.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this. What a great attitude your Grandpa has.

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  3. Your'e a really good writer Sarah! This was really good :)

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