Only A Hero Can Write Of A Hero
Requiem For A Hero
Guy Putnam died Wednesday. He was my wife’s grandfather. His obituary reads,”Guy Irvin Putnam, 80, born June 20, 1926 to Guy and Mabel Putnam in Payette, Idaho passed away December 13, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. He is preceded in death by his daughter Joanne. He is survived by his wife Ilse, a son Pete (Sherry), four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. In recognition of Mr. Putnam’s 27 years of service in the United States Army, he will receive full military honors graveside.”
It’s always been said that still waters run deep. It was never truer than for this unassuming American hero, most commonly known as Granddad.
In the six years I’ve known Guy he was always the soft-spoken retiree who thoroughly enjoyed relaxing with his sweetheart of sixty years Ilse and watching a football game with a warm beer. The grandchildren always teased him about his penchant for warm Old Milwaukee and ice cold coffee. He never tired of telling Ilse how much he loved her, and she never tired of hearing it. Even near the end as his son Pete and I carried him downstairs to go to the to the hospital for his final visit, he spotted Ilse and said, “I love you.”
Guy was raised in depression ravaged Idaho and to make ends meet would travel with his father from Idaho to Oregon to Washington doing construction work to feed their family. As a teenager he attempted to enlist in the Army, but was initially turned away because of nerve damage from a childhood bout with Polio. Guy persisted because his country called and by 1946 found himself in Manheim, Germany where he met a beautiful young German woman named Ilse Vogt. Love blossomed, as will often happen when two young people meet under such extraordinary circumstances, and they soon started their family.
In 1951 the Army assigned Guy to Korea as a Quartermaster/Supply Clerk while his wife and son awaited his return in Tacoma, Washington. Not content to just “do his duty” in Korea, Guy returned with a Bronze Star for heroism during the UN counteroffensive against North Korean and Chinese communist forces. Unfortunately Guy never told me about this, it wasn’t in his nature to brag.
The Putnam family was reassigned to Germany after Korea and in 1955 Joanne was born. Guy and Ilse now had Peter and Joanne and their family was complete. They moved from Germany to Washington, back to Germany and then to Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Time to take cushy, safe assignments, right? Not Guy Putnam. In 1967 he went to Vietnam where he was awarded ANOTHER Bronze Star for ground operations against hostile forces as part of an artillery unit that came under direct attack. The shy, unassuming young man who was initially refused entry into the Army because of a bout with Polio, struck yet another blow for his country! Again, the details of this were gleaned from his service record two days ago. He never let on.
Guy retired in 1971 after nearly 27 years of active duty to Atlantic Beach, Florida. The Putnam family moved a total of 26 times due to military assignments. Families like their’s sacrificed so much to defend the entire free world against the Soviet menace.
Guy worked another 15 years as a machinist with his son Pete before retiring yet again in 1986 to enjoy life’s simpler pleasures. Guy wasn’t a braggart or a talker, he led by example. As this Christmas and Hannukah season is upon us, we have many things to be thankful for. Let’s start by being thankful for soldiers, fathers and grandfathers like Guy Putnam.
My friend Morgan is what is known as a 'man's man'. He's tough, he's smart, he knows the difference between right and wrong--and he's not afraid to say so. He has just written a beautiful tribute to his wife's grandfather; Morgan, your words are so lovely, and your heart is so apparent, all us gals know EXACTLY what Nanette saw in you. Sigh.... ;-) After being around those fools at DU, it's SO nice to see a REAL man! Thank you for this beautiful piece, your loving tribute.
I should, perhaps, tell you of my uncle Leo , who was so damaged at Iwo Jima, that, at age 15, my grandmother wouldn't let me walk up the alley to see him up close. I had to be content with just waving at him... I stand in awe of such men--and you, Morgan.