John Johnson: The Service of My Grandfathers

Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and yet the roles they played in my life were very different.   My Mom’s father, Thomas Carmine Capone (seen with my grandmother Mary) died many years before I was born.  All I know of him was from my mother (and even her memories are less pronounced given he died when she was only 13).   

I think though when I summarize his service, I think of a story that after he died, he was buried in a military cemetery in New York.  On his tombstone was the letters “BSM” which no one knew what they meant.  It turned out my grandfather had been awarded a Bronze Star Medal for operations in Europe during the War.    

No one knew if he ever knew or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was just too humble to have ever told any family about it.

My other grandfather, John H. Johnson Jr., is my namesake (seen with my grandmother Jennie).   I knew my grandfather very well—having been so lucky to have him as a part of my life for the first 36 years of my life.   I didn’t think of my grandfather of a military man, but I do think of him as someone with an incredible work ethic and incredibly high standards.   I have no doubt his demanding standards were shaped by his experiences earlier in life and in service to our country.  

The greatest compliment I was ever given was from my uncle, who once told me that if my grandfather could have drawn up the plan for what he wanted his grandson to be like, it would have been me.    Sharing someone’s name creates a special bond—and in some sense, a special sense of responsibility. 

On this Memorial Day, I’d like to recognize both of my grandfathers and all the other veterans who have served our country proudly.


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