Note to readers from Kristina Gray, Comp. I instructor: I want to showcase the writings of UMC freshmen from as far away as Hawaii and California. I also have a student from the East Coast, specifically Massachusetts. Besides Minnesota towns, some hail from as close as Wisconsin or North Dakota.
I simply asked my 31 students for a first assignment to write about their grandparents in 500 words. That certainly limited what they wrote and what I had to read. Some of these grandchildren have many stories to tell while others not so much. Of course, my historical interest is anything from the early days such as one hundred years ago to the 1930s.
I realize now I should have asked for "great-grandparent" stories if I wanted to learn about earlier stories from this millennial generation. I asked for a show of hands and some of these young people would not have been able to fulfill that assignment on writing about their ancestors. However, what came through loud and clear was the love and respect these grandchildren have for their grandparents. From 31 entries, I am only highlighting 19 students' grandparents; I wish I could include them all.
Their stories fell into five categories. The first was about the Great Depression. Next was "Hard Work." Then it was "Farming and Traditions" and this week it's "Discipline – Military and Sports." Finally, I will end this grandparents' stories series with "Good Addictions and Bad Addictions."
"Green Beret Leadership and Beyond" by Casey Cashman
His name is Kenneth Allen Rittmueller. Some know him as a great captain in the Green Berets. Others know him as the former president and CEO of One Potato Two, or the former area manager of seven eleven. His old friends would know him as the crazy guy who raced Corvettes and motorcycles, willing to sacrifice a toe for an adrenaline rush. But to me, this great guy is grandpa.
It was March of 1968, probably the scariest time in grandpa's entire life. At this time he was deployed to Vietnam. Everything he ever knew was suddenly stripped away from him. Home outside of Chicago, six siblings, the farm life, all gone with one decision to bravely serve his country. Fresh out of high school, grandpa arrived in Vietnam as a private which marked a starting point to his ladder of success.
Shortly after arriving in Vietnam, grandpa worked his way up to the title of sergeant. As time went by, special relationships formed between American troops and Vietnamese people. If you ask grandpa, those special relationships were his "favorite part of being deployed." Being the hard-working man he is grandpa didn't want to settle at being a sergeant. He went to officer training school and after a lot of hard work he earned the title of second lieutenant. While interviewing grandpa I made the comment, "so officer training school wasn't easy was it." To this he answered, after a snicker, "no not easy at all." He will tell you anything you want to hear about Vietnam. The friends he made, the people the troops helped, the skills he learned, but ask him about the battles, and he struggles.
Page 2 of 4 - Grandpa went to leadership school for the Green Berets where the drop- out rate was 60%. That didn't stop him. He worked through it and learned how to parachute out of planes, how to operate under pressure, but most importantly grandpa learned how to lead.
After leadership school, grandpa was promoted to captain of the Green Berets. This marked the beginning of a whole new chapter to his young life. As captain he had many responsibilities but one of the most important was bringing home the men he was responsible for. Think about it, that's a huge responsibility for one man to carry. He was responsible for about 80 to 200 men's lives. There are no promises in war. People die, people get hurt, and families lose loved ones. That burden was all put on grandpa.
Grandpa did not come home unharmed. He hit a roadside bomb while driving his tank, Big Foot. I remember as a kid hearing about him pulling out parts of shrapnel from his body years after coming home. But not only was he physically harmed, grandpa was emotionally damaged as well. As a captain, grandpa formed many relationships with men in his company. He lost many friends in the wars. His best friend died in his arms. After coming home, grandpa was plagued with nightmares that woke him up in a panic in the middle of the night. Vietnam did a toll on grandpa but also prepared him for success outside of the War.
Grandpa led a crazy life. A small town farm boy went from waking up at the crack of dawn, to being a captain in the Green Berets, and became the president and CEO of a major company. I'm sure all of the things grandpa did were beyond his wildest dreams as a kid. But these things formed grandpa into the great man I know today.
"Old Timer Trapped in a Child's Body" by Cody Pamperin
Old timer trapped in a child's body, that's how I describe my grandpa Mike. This is because he has always been really active, healthy, funny, and so much more. I do not remember the last time I was around him and he was not joking with someone or out doing activities such as; playing catch, skiing at the lake, or golfing. I look up to my grandpa very much. I also know that his parents who are my great grandparents lived a very long and healthy life which I see my grandpa doing as well. Because they lived such a long and healthy life I was very fortunate to meet them and I enjoyed there company as well, the only thing is that they lived in Florida.
Having them living in Florida was a good thing but a bad thing at the same time because we got to go down there which is awesome but we only got to see them once a year. Being able to meet my grandpa's parents and getting to know them I can now see where he got his personality. The serious business side came from his mom and his joking and funny side came from his dad. Some of the things that he got from both of his parents are his smarts, kindness, and good health.
Page 3 of 4 - My grandpa was also a college athlete just like me at Buena Vista University, he played football and baseball for the first two years and then just played baseball for the last two years. He is still really good friends with his roommate to this day and his roommate was also a baseball player who got drafted by the Minnesota Twins organization which is one of my biggest dreams. This pretty much sums up why I look up to my grandpa Mike so much and aspire to be as successful as he is.
"Love the Game" by Trent Galkoski
"If you love the game, the game will love you back". That is one of many quotes my Grandpa drilled into me when I was growing up. My grandfather growing up was big athlete and pursued college football until he was cut due to an injury. He was born and raised in the east coast until he had my father then came to California. When he realized that he had let go of college sports and begin his life now with a son he decided to something bold. He went back to school and went into the navy.
After many years of school he was put aboard a submarine called the USS Segundo where he was he was an electrical pilot for 4 years. Being under water for long periods of time was a tough thing for him to adapt to. When he finished his time under water he had this feeling if he was confined he hated it. So he wouldn't wear a seatbelt because he was so confined under water.
My Grandfather also was a war veteran also so he put in his time for this country and to this day he's very proud of it. When he retired from the service, his son was beginning to get into sports and from that day when my father picked up a bat or a football my grandpa felt he had to be at everything. He never missed a practice or game my father played in.
He also wrote everything that happened in the game on a sheet of paper so at the end of the season he had every game and exactly what he did that day. My grandfather and my father attended the same high school called Saint Augustine which is a Catholic school and also an all boy prep school. So while my grandpa went through that school he knew all the staff and coaches so when my father attended they all remembered my grandfather. The school they attended was private school so therefore you had to pay a ton of money a year.
When I was brought into this world my grandfather felt he had to be a part of everything also. So growing up I was involved in football and baseball and from when I was six years old to now being eighteen years old he never missed a game of mine. Also he took all my stats down on a little sheet of paper like he did for my father. The quote "If you love the game, the game will love you back" is my favorite quote by him because it's a motivation to the love the game. Playing football here at University of Minnesota Crookston makes me think of that quote because I love the game of football.
Page 4 of 4 - Now that I'm far from my family it's hard to realize that at games they won't be in the stands they'll be watching from the computer. When my grandfather would come to my games it was extra motivation because being eighty four years old he lives through my great moments. He would always tell me you've made my life the best with all your football and baseball memories. He gave me some words of wisdom before I left also.
I would say that my grandfather has lived a great life and has left memories and will always be my biggest fan.