My Pap, who went to Iraq at 57, taught me the meaning of service

My+grandfather%2C+Sgt.+George+Alvin+Haney%2C+age+57%2C+volunteered+to+follow+the+men+he+had+recruited+to+Iraq+for+a+year+of+duty.+%0A

Photo contributed by Jaiman White

My grandfather, Sgt. George Alvin Haney, age 57, volunteered to follow the men he had recruited to Iraq for a year of duty.

Jaiman White, Multimedia Editor

When I was 3 years old, my grandfather, Sgt. George Alvin Haney, age 57, volunteered to follow the men he had recruited to Iraq for a year of duty. 

When he returned he was met by cheers of grateful people in the streets, and the tears of my younger brother, who was born while he was away. Not surprisingly, that got him on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That’s amazing, and it’s great that I have a VHS tape of us on the news, but for me, he was Pappy. My grandfather has been my biggest inspiration, and though he has since passed away, he continues to have a profound influence on my life.

Raised in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh, my grandfather was no stranger to hard work and hard circumstances, but he always put forth his best effort to give his family the best life possible. In 1968 my pap would be deployed to Vietnam at the height of the war, where he served three tours of duty. 

Following his service in Vietnam, Sgt. Haney and his wife, Christine Haney, would be stationed at Fort Story, Virginia, from 1971-73. In 1973 they moved to Fort Eustis, Virginia, and lived there until he was discharged by the Army in 1975, when they moved back to Pittsburgh. 

Every Veterans Day I’d post the same thing on Facebook, and give him the same speech over the phone: `Just wanted to call and say happy Veterans Day to my favorite grumpy old soldier. You’re my hero and I love you.’ ”

While most people would just want to return to normalcy, my pap could only last a year away from service before enlisting in the Army National Guard. That alone is inspiring; it really shows the love he had for his country.

Everything he did for my family, and for our country, is a testament to the kind of man he was.

I can remember him telling me stories about his service at a young age, and of course he’d find a way to make them child-appropriate and fun. Although at the time I didn’t really know what the Army was, I remember telling everyone who asked that I wanted to be a soldier just like Pap. I’d walk around with a camo Scooby-Doo hat he got for me, or wear one of his MP vests that was always too big for me. I was just trying to be like Pappy.

Today I have a better understanding of what he did, the struggles he went through, and the service he gave to his country for so long. Everywhere we’d go, someone would see one of his hats or jackets and say, “Thank you for your service.” That’s the kind of treatment our veterans should receive. Every Veterans Day I’d post the same thing on Facebook, and give him the same speech over the phone: “Just wanted to call and say happy Veterans Day to my favorite grumpy old soldier. You’re my hero and I love you.” 

Now of course I miss him, and that will never change, but I know he is forever in heaven with God, and forever with me. Although it’ll be a long time before we walk side by side again, the values, the good times, and the memories we shared will always be with me. Because of him I have a love for the men and women of this country who would give their lives to protect my freedoms. To him and all other veterans, I am incredibly grateful.