Almost seventeen years ago on December 29, 1996 Robert E. Pfeiffer Sr. from a little town in Missouri quietly took his last breath. After seventy-eight years of life his body was tired. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, an active member of the church, and a World War II veteran.
I only know the details of his service from stories I heard as a child – mostly from his wife – my grandmother. From what I remember hearing, he was in the Air Force during World War II. At the beginning of his service he was stationed all over the United States and being a newly married couple, my grandmother went with him. When he was sent overseas to fight in the war my grandmother moved back to their little town to stay with her father. She was also expecting their first child.
During that time my grandparents kept in contact with letters and my grandmother sent a picture every month of her growing belly. Then when their son was born on July 18, 1944 she named him Robert Pfeiffer Jr. so that if my grandpa didn’t make it back she would still have a Bob in her life. She continued to send monthly photos after my Uncle Bob was born, only this time of their baby.
My grandparents rarely spoke of those years but I got the sense that they were both proud of him for serving his country and of her for being brave enough to get through the time they were apart. Grandpa was never very talkative and certainly not one to boast, so I never heard any stories from his time in the service. It seemed to him that his time spent there was something that was expected of him and he was happy to defend his country.
Though he never made a spectacle of his time in the service, I believed that it shaped the rest of his life. My grandparents celebrated fifty-four years together before he passed away and their marriage was an inspiration to anyone that met them. I imagine that their marriage was rock solid because it survived those early, difficult times of separation. From that time, they both learned what was important, how to get through tough times, and how much they appreciated each other. To this day, I hold their marriage up as the ideal and only thing I will accept for myself.
The entire time I knew him, my grandfather was an exemplary man. He worked and provided for his family and helped to raise his four children and then his thirteen grandchildren. He was always available to help his family and his church where he attended until the day he died.
Even though he had no stories of great battles and heroics from World War II, he spent his life being a hero to the people he loved. His life is not documented in books or movies, but for those who knew him, he will be a reminder of strength, love, and endurance as well as an example of devotion to family, faith, and country.