By Harry Welty
When I was in fifth grade my Grandfather made one of his infrequent visits to our house. It was the only time that we watched a movie together.
George Robb, my Mother’s Father, was a man whose example both my parents encouraged me to emulate. Since Grandfather had been given the nation’s highest military award, The Congressional Medal of Honor (MOH), this would prove a challenge.
MOH winners are few and exalted for their “conspicuous
gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.”
My Grandfather was always appropriately modest about his
MOH. He claimed that he hadn’t done anything more heroic than countless others
had done. When his award was announced shortly after his discharge from a
military hospital he told the Army to mail it to him. The garrison near his home
I got to thinking about my Grandfather’s visit when my wife and I drew up an eclectic list of old movies to watch during the holidays. I put “Sergeant York” on the list.
Thirty years ago, before DVD’s and VHS tapes, people watched whatever the three networks had to offer. Coincidentally “Sergeant York” was scheduled for broadcast during my Grandfather’s visit. My Mother enthusiastically suggested that he stay and watch it with us and to our surprise he agreed.
My Grandfather wasn’t a fan of the movies. Perhaps,
during the Depression, he regarded them as an extravagance. On the one occasion
that my mother and her sister successfully badgered him to take them to a movie
by arguing that General Custer was an historical figure he returned from the
theater unimpressed. He told them that Custer should have been Court Martialed.
He had a master’s degree in History and had no truck with
But Sergeant York was a different movie. For one thing it
was a great motion picture. It was filmed in 1941 on the eve of
In 1941 my Grandfather was an isolationist. He was being
consistent. In 1916 he had taken the unprecedented step of voting for a
Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, because of his promise to keep
My Grandfather didn’t watch the movie with us because of
its reputation but because of its subject matter, Alvin York. However modest my
Grandfather was about his own exploits he held the mysterious
My wife chuckled in disbelief as Gary Cooper, the movie’s star, grimly marched his prisoners to the American lines in a near futile attempt to find someone who could cope with all his POWs. The story is true. It’s in the citations.
My Grandfather made no disparaging remarks about
I carried the memory of Sergeant York into the Vietnam Era.
The movie inoculated me against pacifism but it never made me a devotee of “my
country right or wrong.” I expect
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com