A Day to Remember and Honor
By Judi Grant, BWC Electronic Design Specialist
Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
One special veteran always comes to mind – my grandfather, Raymond Harley Petty. I honor his memory on this day, and I think about all the veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Although we never met, I carry the impression my grandfather left on my family — respect and love for country, and service to it.
Grandpa enlisted in the Army March 26, 1943, in Columbus. He was 27 and married to my maternal grandmother, Millie.
Pvt. Petty was assigned to the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, which shipped out from Boston on April 6, 1944. His battalion arrived in England on April 17, 1944, then landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, just weeks after D-Day. From there, all my family knew was that my grandfather died from wounds suffered in Germany.
I had searched for years for details on his death. All my inquiries ended the same way, “I’m sorry, all records were burnt in a fire.” In 2019, my father-in-law, Don Grant, a veteran himself, found the answers I was seeking.
We learned my grandfather’s war wounds cost him his left leg, and he died of a blood clot on Nov. 16, 1944 in a hospital in Cambridge, England. Before passing, he received the Purple Heart.
Seven days later, my mother, also named Millie, turned 1. My grandfather had seen pictures of her, but the two never met.
For four years, my grandfather’s remains lay in a beautiful U.S. Military Cemetery in Cambridge, 42 miles northeast of London. In 1948, the Army moved his remains to his final resting place in Beckett Cemetery in Commercial Point, Ohio, about 25 minutes south of downtown Columbus in Pickaway County.
Thanks to my father-in-law’s research, we learned Grandpa was eligible for more than the Purple Heart. In 2018, we received four additional medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation.
I was so proud I immediately framed the medals and other mementoes in a shadow box that hangs in my home office.
Still, something was missing.
I’ve been saddened over the years that I never had a picture of my grandparents and mother together. But that changed last year. On my mother’s birthday, I was looking through old photos and discovered one I had never seen —my grandfather, dressed in full military uniform, standing close to my grandma, who was pregnant with my mother at the time.
I found what I needed.
I am beyond grateful for my grandfather’s sacrifice and that of so many others. On this Memorial Day, as I always do, I’ll ache for the life cut short, the young man who never held his only child, the father my mother never knew. But I will celebrate his life, too.
Thank you, Grandpa.
Military details courtesy of www.tankdestroyer.net.