It's eleven years since you slipped quietly away from us, dying as you had lived with a characteristic lack of fuss. Eleven is the remembrance number -- it will soon now be the eleventh hour of the eleventh month -- and I find myself thinking about you so often, mostly remembering you with a smile but sometimes regretting the things I did not say to you while you were here with me. Regretting the things I did not thank you for doing and being. Remembering all the gifts you gave me.
I know I never thanked you for the five years of your life you gave to defending your country. I know that you joined the Navy in the fall of 1939 and fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. You endured convoy duty in the North Atlantic when the submarine threat was at its highest and served in the Mediterranean. I know that you came home in 1946 exhausted both mentally and physically and that the effects of your service were with you for the rest of your life.
Knowing all this and also knowing that you found it almost impossible to talk about any of it, I never brought up the subject of your war with you. I never told you that I admired you so much for giving that service to your country because you thought it was your duty to do so. To protect your home, your family, your country.
Thank you for teaching me, by your example, about duty. For teaching me that it is right and necessary to do the jobs life gives us with as much competence and dedication as we can bring to them. For showing me that honesty, respect for law and your community, generosity and integrity are the building blocks of living well, of being a good citizen, a good person. I'm not sure I ever said to you that I knew you were all those things or that I knew you consciously tried to build a better, safer world for me and for your grandchildren. I never said that I could see some, at least, of what it cost you.
I wish I could talk to you to-day. Discuss the news, the election of the first African American president. How that would please you. I wish you could see what your granddaughters have become and that they have inherited your diligence, your intelligence and your commitment to family, friends and country.
You can sleep well.