A Day For Stories And Heroes by Lynette Sowell

.“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:13

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., and it seems fitting to me that we salute our military veterans. Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of our local veterans, one of the several thousand remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

In 1939, Henri Grenier was 18 years old, and like many young men his age, he joined the United States Army. Grenier’s parents originally came from Quebec and settled in Maine, where Grenier was born and raised. Grenier grew up in a predominantly French-speaking household. Henri, or Hank as he’s usually called, faced a unique challenge when he enlisted.

I hardly knew any English when I joined the Army,” said Grenier. “It took me 16 weeks to get through basic training instead of eight. I didn’t know what they meant by ‘right face’ or ‘left face.’ It took me a while to understand what they wanted me to do. I don’t really remember much French anymore, though.”

After basic training, Grenier was assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment, known as the Wolfhounds. Once Grenier shipped out to the Pacific theater, he found himself at Pearl Harbor’s Schofield Barracks.

The Wolfhounds spent six months laying barbed wire off the beaches, preparing for any kind of sea invasion,” said Grenier. “Last year when my wife and I returned to Hawaii for the U.S.S. Arizona memorial, Waikiki  looked the same. I’m sure the wire was gone, though.” We laughed together about that one.

Ninety years old now, Grenier recalled the morning of December 7, 1941. “It was a regular Sunday morning. I remember us getting ready to line up for formation to go to the mess hall for breakfast. Then we heard the planes coming in. Didn’t think much of it at first. We thought it was either the Army or Navy doing some exercises. Then we heard the explosions of bombs dropping. People started yelling, ‘We’re under attack!’ We started running.”

Grenier recalls a fellow serviceman from his unit, John Majewski, was wounded during the attack and sent back to the mainland. “I never found out what happened to him.”

During his total of 23 years of service with the Army, Grenier joined the Wolfhounds in a number of operations, including Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. “We left Hawaii about a year after Pearl Harbor, and started hopping to islands in the Pacific.”

He vividly remembers making an ocean landing by ship. “We couldn’t get too close to shore because of the size of our ship, so we had to go in personnel carriers. The Japanese were waiting for us.” He recounted the tough battle they faced as they left the ship. I knew without him saying, he been through more than he wanted to share, or remember.

The 27th Infantry fought the Japanese, as well as disease in their Pacific conflicts. Grenier returned to Maine in 1945, then eventually met a young lady named Donna during his time back home in the early 50’s.

We were at a party, and he asked me to dance,” said Donna Grenier. The couple was married in 1953 and she was by his side supporting him, including three assignments at Fort Hood and other posts throughout the U.S. The couple sunk their roots into Copperas Cove after Grenier retired as a 1st Sergeant in 1974, and Grenier went on to operate Grenier Fencing.

At the time I started, there were only a few fence companies around. Now if you look in the yellow pages, they’re all over the place.” The Greniers’ three sons didn’t follow in their father’s footsteps of a military career, but all three served in the military. One son has worked as a contractor, the other as a mechanic on Fort Hood. “One of my sons passed away, but the other two have had good jobs, so I’m glad of that, even though they didn’t stay in the military.”

Grenier and his wife enjoy their retirement together, usually found playing bingo at the VFW Post 8477. “If we’re not home, one of our sons will call and say, ‘I guess you’re playing bingo again,’” said Donna with a smile. She treasures a photograph of her husband in his full dress uniform taken three years ago. The photo is simply labeled, “A picture of my love, Grand Marshal of the Veterans Day parade.”

Last December at the U.S.S. Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor and the dedication of the new visitors center, Grenier recalls looking down to where the Arizona went down 70 years ago this December.

There were other survivors there, and other family members of survivors. We threw wreaths of flowers into the water.”

Grenier still proudly wears his traditional olive drab green hat with a wide brim, worn at one point during his career when he was a DI, or drill instructor. The hat is studded with pins and miniature commemorative medals. “No, I never made anyone cry as a drill sergeant. What you see on TV or movies, all the yelling and screaming and getting in someone’s face. I didn’t do that. They did what I told them to, though,” he said.

There are several thousand survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor who are alive to recall this pivotal moment in American History, and seventy years later, Hank Grenier is thankful to be here to recount his stories of service to his country. I’m thankful I was fortunate to listen to him. Whatever you do today, make sure you thank a veteran. If  you’re fortunate, you’ll get to hear a story..

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74 Responses to A Day For Stories And Heroes by Lynette Sowell

  1. I absolutely LOVE that you’ve chosen to commemorate this important day through sharing a Veteran’s words, memories and experiences. Thank you!

    These are such powerful stories that need to be told — before we can no longer hear them.

    Happy Veteran’s Day to all who serve(d) — and their incredible families!

    🙂

    Like

    • I am also a newspaper reporter (besides being a fiction writer), and I write features of local people. When November came around, I decided to interview veterans, especially our older ones. I counted it an honor to spend time with them. If I interviewed someone new every week, I would probably never run out of veterans to listen to..I live very close to Fort Hood, Texas.

      Like

    • Well, i have been to Paris Island SC Marine Core Recuritment depo. It was a fun time, the DI did really get in your face if you did not do it, and well then you did it, it was outstanding how the people was. And it was fun we went to US Army Fort Stewert Savannah Georgia, it was really fun on that note.

      Like

  2. tripsfor2 says:

    Thanks for your sweet commemoration.
    Please read about our gratitude for the vets who saved our lives at: http://stateofsharing.wordpress.com.
    Like your site!

    Like

  3. We truly appreciate your remembrance of veterans.
    We’re living in joy and gratitude today because US Special Forces saved our lives: http://stateofgrateful.wordpress.com.

    Like

  4. andydbrown says:

    Awesome tribute to veterans! And no better way to start it than with quoting John 15:13! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Like

  5. Rae says:

    Lovely story, thanks for sharing!

    Like

  6. mohanmohan says:

    I interviewed two WWI vets a couple years ago for a project I was involved in. I asked each how he felt about Truman dropping the A-bomb on Japan. Both had been training at the time for invading Japan, and both said they and everyone in their squads cheered when they heard the news. To this day, neither had any doubt that Truman’s decision, controversial as it has become, saved millions of live. Thanks for serving!

    Like

    • One thing I definitely learned is that the older veterans think a little differently than some do now. In a future interview for the newspaper, one Vietnam veteran told me, “We have spent all these years fighting according to the guidelines of the Geneva Convention; however, those who we’ve fought against do not. It’s hard to fight someone who doesn’t play by your rules.”

      Like

  7. Thank you very much for sharing.

    God Bless
    in +JMJ+

    Like

  8. A confession here: I was thinking of a way to relate this post to reading, books, and Christian fiction. I think, though, it’s important to take our nose away from a book for a few minutes to listen to the very real characters around us… 🙂

    Like

  9. Wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing. I remember Pearl Harbor and relatives who returned from the war with stories to tell. Those men are of a different breed and know the true meaning of freedom. We salute them today.

    Like

  10. aefountain says:

    It is also Veteran’s Day in Canada and many other places.

    No matter where I am, when I see a person wearing their uniform and medals, I go up to them and shake their hand and thank them. I don’t truly care how they served my country, but the fact that they stood up and did, they deserve my thanks, no matter what the day of the year it is.

    Our army isn’t as big nor as notorious as the Britain’s or the U.S.’s but more times over, we have honourably aided other countries. I truly hope that Canada will remember where we have always stood and go back to the roots of our Armed Forces.

    Like

  11. Ingrid Reid says:

    The sacrifice that was made by those men & women who fought in ww1 & ww2 was awesome. The were people with real strenght of charactor. It really couldnt have been easy. I had a number of uncles and a grandfather who fought in ww2. Some joined very young and had to grow up very fast.
    Thank you for sharing. God Bless

    Like

  12. figis says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. And a special thank you for to everyone who has served!

    Happy Veterans Day

    Like

  13. Thanks so much for this post! What a lovely day to honor our troops and vets–I include my late father, my dear hubby, my youngest son, and two grandsons (one still active Navy). God bless them! And may we remember to honor and pray for them all year long.

    Like

  14. Susanna says:

    Thanks to Greiner for his service and to Christian Read for the post. Now let’s pray for leaders’ wisdom when choosing where to send our beloved troops.

    Like

  15. This is awesome! Thanks for posting. And that’s incredible that you got to sit down and interview him! I am thankful for his service.

    Also, it’s encouraging to see other Christian bloggers. Especially one that’s doing so well. Congrats on your Fresh Press!

    http://jacobscottmoore.wordpress.com

    Like

  16. Tim Shey says:

    Great story. Our nation and other nations have freedom because of the sacrifices made by our veterans. God bless you.

    You may want to read these:

    “Lucille”
    http://tim-shey.blogspot.com/2010/05/lucille.html

    “Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, USMC, 1984-2004”
    http://tim-shey.blogspot.com/2010/06/lance-corporal-chance-phelps-usmc-1984.html

    “Hitchhiking Stories”
    http://tim-shey.blogspot.com/p/hitchhiking-stories.html

    Like

  17. No matter what our ideas are about where the United States is fighting, the brave men and women who do the dangerous work deserve our respect.

    Ronnie

    Like

  18. Pingback: Veteran’s Day! Thanks for your service! « justkeepswimmingforward

  19. I called my Dad today, hoping to hear a story or two, but like Henri, I could tell he had more to say than he’d ever let on. I cannot imagine coming home from any war with everything that went on in your mind, like a vault- because you just don’t want to relive it.

    God bless our Veteran’s. Nothing but respect and deep admiration for them all.

    Like

  20. Matt George says:

    Great job on the article, and thank you to all our veterans. I am so happy and thankful that my Dad served for our freedom we experience in the U.S.

    Like

  21. Great article. Thanks for taking the time to get and share his story.

    Like

  22. energizeyourlifetime says:

    Hello very nice blog!! Beautiful .. Amazing. Thanks For sharing!!!
    http://energizeyourlifetime.com/

    Like

  23. Great story! Great writer. Well done 🙂

    Like

  24. countoncross says:

    WOW….great story! Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  25. Patricia says:

    Yes, as a previous comment mentioned, it is also Remembrance Day in Canada, a time to truly stop and thank a soldier, thank a veteran. Mere words for all that they did.
    Thank you for the post, Christians Read, and Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.
    The Freshly Pressed mention is well deserved, your post is well written as well as pertinent.

    Thank you
    Patricia

    Like

  26. jessriospaz says:

    Great idea to talk to a veteran and thank you for sharing his story!!

    Like

  27. Wow, Freshly Pressed! I had no idea what that meant and had to look that one up. Thank you again for reading and stopping by! I hope you’ll come by again. We’re a group of bloggers who have one thing in common and enjoy writing from our varied perspectives.

    Like

  28. donationcan says:

    Thank you for sharing. And thank you to 1st Sgt Grenier for his service.

    Like

  29. basangsisiw says:

    I’ve always loved History and watching war movies- you know the type that made you realize how fortunate you are to be born long after the great World Wars were over. Couldn’t be more thankful that I was spared of seeing the horrors of war… I just don’t think I am strong enough to withstand that kind of life.

    You are indeed fortunate to hear that story from someone who once fought for one’s country, and most importantly straight from the veteran’s mouth… Congrats on your story! 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks, and yes, I’m very grateful that I’ve been spared so much, even in this current generation. I live near Fort Hood TX and have many friends who’ve been through a lot. They are very shy about being referred to as “heroes.”

      Like

  30. I am a S/w engineer . this story is touchy

    Like

  31. Roda says:

    I thoroughly interesting blog post. It seems like the writer is talking about something that happened just yesterday instead of so many years ago. I guess some things you never can just forget. Hope the WWII is the last World War this world shall ever experience. It would be nice if you visited my blog too … I am an author.

    Like

  32. ahobowithahome says:

    War is hell and it’s a primitive, stone-aged practice that I’m truly surprised it still exists. You are a skillful writer but you over-romanticize war. Keep writing but be in touch with the human scene, too.

    Like

    • Yes, I agree that war is terrible. Mr. Grenier and those he fought against should have never had to do many of the things that they did. I realize that he *didn’t* tell me the gory parts. Out of respect for him, I didn’t ask him things like “So how many people do you think you killed? Did you have any hand to had combat in the jungles of those islands?” He did tell me that they would collect their dead and would not leave anyone behind. I didn’t ask him for numbers, either. I have one friend who served in Vietnam that would not volunteer to be interviewed. He still has nightmares sometimes…

      Like

  33. Natalie says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. Blessings to you for honoring Hank and all veterans with your post.

    Like

  34. Thanks for sharing … There are tons more stories where this one came from – Honored Vets!

    Like

  35. asoulwalker says:

    God bless you First Sergeant.

    Like

  36. Wonderful piece! Next year I may interview my dad, a Vietnam Marine veteran. Or I may not wait for next year. Thanks for the inspiration. These guys and girls deserve our gratitude every day of the year.

    Like

  37. pryan51 says:

    Great job – thank you!

    Like

  38. funkymonkey56 says:

    I spent ten years in the Army and that is what helped me make it through life. I have been a civilian for 28 years now. It is great to be a veteran and I would recommend to any young man or woman to join the military.

    Like

    • I have noticed that those who serve in the military, especially those who serve for a long time, go on to do good things and make a difference, especially in their communities. Thanks for serving!

      Like

  39. A truly excellent remembrance story. Thank you. You may just find some interest in my new book, a remembrance story also: It’s called “Nor the Years Condemn”. 🙂
    http://crackernight.com/2010/02/10/justin-sheedys-next-book-ghosts-of-the-empire/

    Like

  40. matthewdpayne says:

    As a former Marine, thank you taking the time to write this and to honor those who have served.

    Matt

    Like

  41. I have just been to the Remembrance ceremony in Bristol, UK. A beautiful autumn day, a good crowd, a rare instance of a city coming together in unity, forgetting all the other stuff going on to remember a shared past. some of the cadets nearly fainted, the brass band was haunting. A frail old veteran was wheeled up to the cenotaph to lay a wreath, struggled upright and barely made it back to his chair. Very touching to see.

    Like

    • That sounds like a very touching and a heartfelt moment…I hope there were a lot of children there to see and understand, at least on their level. Our town hosted a Veterans Day parade, honoring those who have survived and served. I was glad to see a lot of children appreciating those who’ve given so much.

      Like

  42. ELBARBOUCHI says:

    it very important instance to remember those men and women who was sacrified there lives and fighting with big courage in order to keep peace and let it shining strough the world. so i want just to recognize to all toguether my own admiration.thanks veterans.

    Like

  43. ELBARBOUCHI says:

    it very important instance to remember these men and women who was sacrified there lives and fighting with big courage in order to keep peace and let it shining strough the world. so i want just to recognize to all toguether my own admiration.thanks veterans.

    Like

  44. Outstanding post thanks for honoring vets and thanks for qouting from the book of John.

    Like

  45. Thanks for sharing the great blog, looking forward to reading more so I’ll be back soon as I can(“-“)

    Like

  46. Thank you very much for sharing this veteran’s words with us!

    Like

  47. qldps says:

    Thou shalt not kill.
    You are a Hypocrite
    You debase Christianity

    Like

  48. Sofía says:

    I totally love your post… it’s so great to read stories like this one, instead of what artists have done in their lifes.
    Thank you!

    Like

  49. nipun says:

    very well written

    Like

  50. livingdifferentlives says:

    its amazing that there are still people out there who have lived through these moments of history… totally deserved to be featured on freshly pressed!!

    Like

  51. Thank you for that.

    War is the most devastatingly destructive invention man has conceived yet the paradox is war brings out the very best of him. It pushes him far beyond the normal boundaries or protective limitations of normal perceptions. Life struggle, beauty and death are the essence of natures awesome power. While nature has ultimate control over life and death, only man can turn the beauty into unimaginable horror. Life is life, death is death but it is the struggle where man manifests his true creative beauty. I find It is interesting Hank started a fencing company after the war. Was he subconsciously deciding there is a time to stop pushing the envelope. There is a time for building fences, shutting out the bad and protecting what is good?

    Like

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for responding. You are so right–war is so self-destructive. Not just to people individually, but our race as a whole–the human race. I would love to be on a planet where people with different ideologies can just sit down and co-exist, agree to disagree if you will. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that problem. (I won’t start waxing political here, so I’ll end that thought… 🙂 ) That ia a very interesting metaphor about Hank’s fence company. One of the practical reasons he started the company was because so few people were doing it. About 30-40 years ago, the area around Fort Hood was (and is) a growing, developing area. Very few housing “developments.” Of course, like Robert Frost says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Thanks again…

      Like

  52. Mzwakhe says:

    Amen

    Like

  53. La Knifton says:

    I really enjoyed reading this – what a fantastic man this veteran is! I was very impressed by your sensitive write up, Lauren.

    Like

  54. pinit says:

    hello, good morning ,i am glad to read your blog
    thank to share

    Like

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