Penzeys Spices call for "grilling vets" - gets response from WWII veteran

I buy all my spices from a company called Penzeys. Here's a note from them:




This email arrived just two hours after we sent out our call for grilling Vets. Our spices are pretty good, but our customers are where the real value of our business lives. Knowing some of you might want to share this, we've entered the Facebook age to make that possible. —Bill


Your request brings back memories of over 70 years ago. I am a 91 year old Vet from WWII living in Arizona, but still cooking. My wife passed on some 8 years ago (and boy do I miss her cooking) so the grill and stove have become a favorite companion. In fact my social life is dependent upon my ability to share that ability with others.
Going back to 1944, and the Landing in France, to the ending of the war in Europe, our Gun Crew (18 Guys) were a Mobile Crew with Anti-aircraft and ground support for the Infantry, moving almost daily as the need would be required for our type of fire power. We did not have access to the normal food chain, thus requiring us to shift for ourselves.
We did receive C- Rations, but you can well imagine how that was received. It became a real problem, requiring it to be addressed if we were to stay healthy and a fighting unit. As we were in the countryside, traveling over farm land, most of the time that became our food source. The French Farmers and Land supplied a wide selection of food. It only had to be cooked and moved with us. At first it was crude, Fire pit with pots and pans.
Doesn’t work for a bunch of hungry guys. We needed a better solution. We had chickens, rabbits, farm veggies, so we worked out a makeshift gill. Helped some. Then we found (in an old French barn) a wood stove covered in dust, but an answer to our need.
Installed it in the back of one of the trucks, worked out a routine of cooks, and grilled and cooked with wood for our unit, living off the land, so to speak.
I might make a statement, that a number of young men learned something about cooking. We were limited as to Spices as we could find some near the farms, but at that time, it was mostly Salt and Pepper.
Some time ago I ran across a photo shot of our Unit and truck with the old stove in the back. The guy standing in the front, right side is myself.
Funny how life can be.
Jim Redmond




The response to our request for Grilling Vets has been amazing. Veterans are remarkable people. There is something more than just good food that is happening when veterans and grilling come together. Some emails come with a story or a photo like Jim's above. More are simply "I'm a Vet and I grill, just let me know what you need." After reading well over 500 emails in the past two days, from a surviving WWII torpedo bomber navigator in the Pacific to "My wife just got home from her latest deployment and we grilled last night," I think whatever these stories become, it will be something more than just one catalog.

And though we already have more Cooks than we will be able to feature, if you have a story or photo to share, please pass it along. I'm sure it will help shape what this story becomes. We will keep you posted. I'm just eager for a recipe that connects me and the people I cook for to the man in that photo above.
Thanks so much,
Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Great story!

Maj Todd O. USMC, Retired
Grandson of LTC John O'Brien

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