Paul  Kengor

Another was John Shrode. Born in Rockport, Indiana, August 11, 1925, just four days after the birth of the girl (Martha) he would marry and take care of for 67 years, John landed on Omaha Beach at 7:35 a.m. on June 6, 1944—D-Day. He was literally among the first Allied troops to storm the beaches of Normandy. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for rescuing France from the Nazis.

“He will forever be my hero,” says his daughter-in-law, Kendra Shrode. Kendra’s husband, who was John’s first-born child, died in 1989 without ever really knowing about John’s service. “He had not yet reached the point of talking about it,” remembers Kendra. “With my children he did, and I am so grateful they had that opportunity.”

John’s life wasn’t easy. He grew up in a broken home, had only an eighth-grade education, and lost a child. Later in life, he developed three types of cancer, atop other illnesses. He struggled to take care of his wife as she came down with Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, says Kendra, “He was the most well-read ‘uneducated’ man I have ever known. And his life code was integrity…. The strength of this man lives on in his children and grandchildren.”
A dairy and grain farmer, John went on to work for Caterpillar Tractor Company for 31 years. He loved his wife, raised his kids, and made a better culture and country.

For Kendra and the many Shrode children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, this will be a Memorial Day without “Papa John.” John Denzil Shrode, 8th Platoon, Company C, 6th Naval Beach Battalion, died November 5, 2011.

John’s final resting place is quintessentially American. It sits aside a tombstone awaiting his beloved wife and across from the baseball field in small-town America where he played and coached his children for years.

“As I stood looking at the flag tributes and glanced over at the fields,” says Kendra of a recent visit to John’s grave, “I realized he will be forever with us all.”

For all of those veterans who didn’t make it to Memorial Day this year, I say thank you. You remain constants—forever with us all.