Idaho Woman Shares Grandfather’s Incredible World War II Story on Veterans Day
Here in the Treasure Valley, we have the privilege of having some of the great men and women putting their lives on the line to serve in the United States military as neighbors, co-workers and friends. But as a child, whenever someone mentioned veterans around me, this was the man I thought of.
This Veterans Day, I want to take some time to honor my grandfather, John Bistrica. He passed away in August 2021, but his story will live on for generations. Grandpa was part of the first assault wave on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day. The night of the assault, my grandpa and his fellow soldiers dug in hoping not to be attacked by German tanks. The next morning they were shocked to know that a German unit had spent the night on the other end side of the shrubbery they were near. They ended up capturing 14 German troops.
He fought for four months before suffering a concussion when a shell exploded near him. The explosion also damaged his hearing and they ended up honorably discharging him. He made it home just in time to enjoy Christmas with his family (who had initially been told that he was missing in action) in 1945.
Grandpa didn't talk about the war often except for when he was attending an annual reenactment or talking to a group of students. One of my favorite stories he does share is about the little red, white and blue patch that he still had on his uniform clear into his nineties. (BTW, at 97 he still fit in his uniform and would still wear it when he spoke which is pretty damn cool if you ask me!) It was given to him a few days after D-Day while American soldiers were riding on tanks through Paris. When they stopped, a little girl's mom held her up to Grandpa to hand him the patch. He was shocked that the toddler said in perfect English "Thank you American soldier" when she handed it to him.
Another super cool thing about my Grandpa? He's in this iconic photo from Omaha Beach! Based on where the gun covers were laying on the carrier, he realized it was his ship. Before he passed it hung in his living room with a big yellow highlighter mark where he is in the photo.
I couldn't thank my Grandpa enough for his bravery at the age of 20 and for giving my dad, his siblings, his grandkids and great-grandkids the incredible opportunity to live our own American dreams.
A sincere Happy Veterans Day to my Grandpa in heaven, other veterans and men and women still currently serving our country in the US Military!
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