My Uncle John is one of the most interesting men I've ever met.
It's important to know that my mom was an "accident" (of which I'm especially grateful of) born to her mother at 40. Her siblings were the same age as my dad's parents, so that will help you connect timelines...
Uncle John fought in World War II. He was in the 2nd wave of the invasion of Iwo Jima. What he saw and experienced there has been recalled as some of the worst fighting American troops have experienced. He never talked about it much, but I remember he spoke of being on sentry duty one night after the island was taken. An asian man began walking toward the line he was guarding. In Japanese and English he yelled out, "Stop or I'll fire!" The man's response was to start running toward him. In the moment of saying this Uncle John's eyes betrayed that he wasn't in Indiana anymore; rather, he was far away...as he continued, "So I shot him." And the story ended with a long quiet. He is one of our veterans who defended the world, and though he did his duty, he was reluctant to be the warrior.
On the GI bill, Uncle John studied Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering. He went on to work for NASA. He was responsible for solving a major fuel mixing issue with the Gemini project. He also helped design some of the electronics of the shuttle. His last big project was helping with the Hubble telescope. I always remember him bringing pictures and talking about NASA (because I'd always ask). I loved when he'd send patches to me. I still have a couple of them. He oozed intelligence, American ingenuity, and a proud Builder sense of accomplishment.
I write this in honor of Uncle John, who today is suffering from Alzheimer's. A once proud intellectual has trouble doing the simplest of tasks. A responsible man is now dependent upon his wife to take care of him in every aspect of life. Here's to you, Uncle John. Thank you for the inspiration to love learning, to love exploration and space, and to believe in the power of the "can-do" attitude.
My God grant you release.