There are a lot of veterans in my family: myself and three of my sons, my brother, my father and all six of my uncles, and a few of my cousins. Between us we have been serving during every major U.S. conflict of the last 75 years, from World War II to Iraq. Before that I had great-uncles and great-grandfathers in the Great War and the Spanish-American War. In fact, my forebears have been serving in the military of our country since before its beginning, starting in Fort Ticonderoga and Valley Forge.
There is one of us in particular, my uncle Charles Hahn, who I believe deserves special recognition. A country boy from central Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Army during World War II. He became a Sherman tank driver who made the landing at Normandy on Day+17. While he met no conflict there, that was not to last. In the campaign across France, he earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart; he still has German shrapnel in his leg.
This never slowed him down. He returned home a war hero, married my aunt, and got to work building roads, dams, and power plants. You really can’t drive very far in Pennsylvania without crossing a bridge he helped build.
Charles lives quietly and peacefully now in a retirement home near Lewistown, Pa. He is nearly 90 years old, one of the few remaining of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ I remember as a young boy listening in awe to his stories of his war adventures, yet still not realizing the great sacrifice that he and his friends made. Today I do. Especially this day. Veterans Day.