My Papa’s Tilted Hat

Today being Veterans Day, I am thinking about my grandfather, Papa. He was one of the best men I’ve ever known or expect to know. He died too early and yet, he lived far longer than expected. Were it not for skilled doctors in an Army hospital in Korea, I never would have met him and the hole in my universe would be an all-encompassing black.

Though he put in an entire career in the US Army, the Papa I knew never felt like a soldier to me. He had a perpetual grin, an easy laugh and always, ALWAYS a hat over his bald head at a jaunty little tilt. He was warm and wonderful and my siblings and I adored him. Teddy bear material – Yes! Soldier? Not this guy. But there he is.

I grew up puzzled at how he ended up in a green suit. Why he kept reporting for duty long after the war and then the other war and then the other war had ended. How he maintained that grin, that laugh, that calm and steady demeanor.

Obviously, there’s more to this story. I know a little of it.


Came from a family
who had nothing except everything.

Stayed in school just long enough to read
diplomas that would never hang on his wall
married his one true love
held two baby girls
in his burly arms

Went to war
to make ends meet

He sobbed in a silent room
beside his daddy’s casket
then soldiered on
teaching other young men to




Fire –
New generations of boys

born to nothing but need,
braving foot rot for freedom
and the paycheck sent home
for their babies
growing up without the comfort
of burly arms

©2022, Marilyn Garcia

 I think of him now and remember that tilted hat. I wonder if that hat, ever so slightly against Army regulation, was the way Papa held tight to a small piece of himself he would never, could never surrender to the green-suited soldier. Someday, when we’re together on the other side, I will have to ask him about that.

Now, please head over to Buffy Silverman‘s blog  for more Poetry Friday goodness.

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