My Grandfather’s WWII Experience Changed My Views on Palestine

Times change and so, does it seem, the (dis)honor of war.

E.B. Johnson
9 min readNov 20

A photo of the author’s grandfather in a local newspaper (Author’s Own Image)

In 2009, I got a writing assignment that changed me. I was a sophomore in college and got the monumental (and interesting) task of sitting down to interview a grandparent of a great-grandparent. The purpose was clear, sit down with them and find out what their life was like when they were young. We had to get the whole scoop. How did they grow up? What was work like? How did they keep healthy? How did they live?

At first, I panicked about the task. Thanks to some warped dynamics in my family, I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with any extended family. I spoke to my grandparents once a year, awkwardly, if all went according to plan, and I hadn’t seen either of my living grandparents in years.

True to form, I waited until the last minute. I didn’t know who to ask or how. For my family, an interview was a pretty intimate conversation, and I was convinced I would get turned down.

In the end, I went to my mother and asked her to contact my grandfather. Quickly approaching his 90s at this time, I knew he was a hard-working man who had a wealth of experiences in WWII and beyond. I had no idea just how deep those experiences ran…or how they would change the way I see the world in conflict now, at this moment.

Dust to eat, and dust to breathe.

I sat down to interview my grandfather over the phone in the winter of 2009. Per the request of my professor, the questions were pretty standard. When were you born? What was your family like? What was it like when you were young? When you were a teen? When you were a young adult?

This was the point at which my story deviated from that of my peers.

While most of them took quick, straightforward interviews about growing up in the groovy 60s — my grandfather started his story in Kansas, during The Great Depression. He wasn’t the child of a groovy social movement. Instead, my grandfather was a child of the Dust Bowl.

Dust to eat,’ and dust to breathe and dust to drink. Dust in the beds and in the flour bin, on dishes and walls and windows, in hair and eyes and…

E.B. Johnson

Author. NLPMP. Podcaster. Trying to share knowledge.