Of my four biological and two second marriage grandparents, five of them served during World War II. Grandpa Pilny (2003), who spoke at the very least Polish, German, and Russian and maybe one or two others, was a translator overseas. Grandma Pilny (1983(?)) never went overseas but was a nurse in one of the branches; I believe Army.
I hadn't known this before moving to Albuquerque, but Grandpa Shad (2000(?)), Grandma Sid (1971), and Grandma Shad (still here) all met in Los Alamos. I had known Grandma Sid worked on the Manhattan Project as a geiger counter, but I had never made the leap in association to New Mexico. Grandma Shad, who was a secretary of some sort, was Grandma Sid's confirmation sponsor (Grandma Sid converted in order to marry Grandpa) and Grandma Sid's Maid of Honor. Grandpa Shad was in the military and ended up in Rome courtesy of the AFB.
I never got to know Grandma Sid, she died a month and change after I was born. Grandpa Shad was always distant; I think maybe he couldn't help but associate (not blame, but still associate) me with Grandma Sid's death. Grandma Shad I adore to pieces; she is generous, kind, and very huggable. Devoutly Catholic, she was nothing but supportive of my lesbian aunt (her stepdaughter) and referred to Aunt Caty's spouse as her "partner". She understands what I think so many people fail to; that people are people, and deserve to be treated as such so long as they're not actively harming anyone.
I wish the results of the project the trio worked on had ended up bettering the world instead of being used as a weapon, and I find that I don't feel they're to blame for working on it. Maybe it helps that I knew two of the three in person, and the third through happy stories told by Grandma Shad and mom.
Grandma and Grandpa Pilny. What more can I say? Grandma was like a mom to me; I think I spent more time with Grandma and Grandpa Pilny growing up than I did at home -- at least when school wasn't in session, and then I spent hundreds of happy weekends with them; maybe thousands, I'm too lazy to do the math. Grandma was a healing nurse who made military-neat beds for all the time I knew her, and who was gentle and loving.
Grandpa translated -- I don't know if his actions got anyone killed. He had some faults; he wasn't very fond of Vatican II and was barely able to hide his anti-semitism from me. He was also to some degree racist, though he probably didn't realize it since his actions seemed to be more instinctive while his words were thought out. He smoked and lied about it to Grandma for all 35+ years of marriage, it wasn't until years later that my closest cousin Kim and I pieced together the significance of him always having Certs for us.
But then again, as a person he stepped in when my father willingly excised Pamela and me from his life. When I think of "dad" I think of Grandpa, not my biological father. As Kim, who also lived with Grandma and Grandpa for many summers, said at his funeral, he made every one of his grandchildren believe she (or he, once Christopher was born) was the apple of his eye. He loved fishing and he apparently hogged up my mom's and my green thumbs; I'm hoping mine will go from brown to green someday. I loved him.
On Memorial Day I remember them as well as my great uncle Ray, who was last seen alive as he bailed out of his plane which had been shot down over Korea. Grandma Sid and Uncle Ray are somewhat more abstract and easy to remember simply as veterans known only through those who knew and loved them. Grandma and Grandpa Pilny and Grandma and Grandpa Shad, though, I remember more for the wonderful people they were (even if distant) than for their part in the wars. I think that perhaps gives me a better reason to celebrate Memorial Day rather than to observe it. Or maybe I should stop writing while sleep-deprived.