I wrote this several years ago and snuck it into my grandpa’s local news paper as a surprise. I thought is might be fitting on Flag Day.
When I was a boy, there was a life-size poster of Michael Jordan on the wall in my bedroom. I idolized this man who forever changed basketball. I remember standing next to it, looking up, and wondering if I would ever be that great. It has been a couple decades, I am now the same height as Jordan, and I still find myself looking for people to look up to. I no longer put up life-size posters of everyone I hold in high regard, but I continue to have a desire to place someone in an honored position. In the last several years I have obtained an interest in cycling. While I fight to get in the miles at an embarrassingly slow pace, I have looked to people like Lance Armstrong for inspiration. His recent fall from grace caused me to think; are there any heroes left in this world that are worthy of my respect? The news media seems to be filled with stories of noteworthy people committing heinous sins. As my own children grow and begin to notice the world outside of our home, whom will they look to for inspiration? Who will they define as their heroes?
Recently, at a family gathering, I looked over at my aging grandfather, Gerald Stoller, it hit me. I was sitting in the presence of a man who is one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. The irony is that he would never tell you that, and would in fact argue with you that there are many men who are more deserving of that statement than him. You won’t find life-size posters of him in any kids rooms and his name isn’t common except for the small community where he lives. Grandpa Stoller didn’t serve in one war, he served in two. While some Americans were getting married, buying cars and houses, and starting their careers, my grandpa spent nearly 10 years in service to our country during World War II and Korea. He has proudly represented veterans since his time of service. As a worker, he remained committed to the same job for nearly 30 years, delivering mail on a rural route in Minidoka County; An accomplishment that is increasingly scarce as people today chase the dollar and instant gratification. He has faithfully served his God and church his entire life.
Over 60 years ago he married June. In his words, “the prettiest USO girl.” As if sticking together this many years isn’t accomplishment enough, they still like to hold hands while they watch TV. On occasion they have shared their wisdom related to marriage. It is usually a as simple as; “your grandma is my best friend.”
It occurred to me, my desire for a real hero can be met by looking within my own family. This man, my grandfather, served our Country out of his love for America, worked hard, committed to his wife for a lifetime, and remained true to who he is, every day of his life.