December 17, 2014, our country lost a great man, my grandfather Joseph Francis Dubel.  I may be a little biased because he was my grandfather, but I truly believe he was a great American. When I attended his celebration of life with my family, I tried to speak about him.

How can anyone in words explain a man’s life that spanned almost 80 years in a few minutes?  How do you even try to convey not only what he meant to so many, but also how much he loved his country and how much his own family loved him?

My family comes from a long line of Navy men, and as I stood at the podium, I froze.  I couldn’t think of any sequence of words that could explain how great of a man he was.

My grandfather lived the definition of the American dream. He worked hard without complaining, and didn’t ask much from his country or others, was always willing to help anyone in need, and cared for the well being of others; virtues that I always aspired to copy.   Every man or women follows a code or ethos: a built in set of moral rules that are taught or learned over time.  My grandfather instilled his virtues in me and always taught me that you have to work hard, and that you must always continue to learn.

While still in the Navy, my grandfather attended Territorial College of Guam, and this is when his thirst for learning started.  When his time in the Navy ended, my grandfather attended Compton Community College, and later graduated from Cal Poly.  Each step I have taken in my own life is an attempt to mimic his.  The GI-Bill was re-activated at the end of his education, which helped him through part of his degree.  Today, many veterans don’t take advantage of this benefit. I believe that our country needs more educated people to help our fellow Americans, and our veterans will be able to gain or further their education to help others.

Like my grandfather, I started my education while still enlisted in active duty. I knew that later I was going to get my master’s degree, a simple competition to pass my grandfather.  I wanted to save part of my GI-Bill to cover part of that tuition.  The GI-Bill only lasts for four years, normally sufficient to cover a four-year degree.

He was a great inspiration that we all should follow.  Great leaders have the gift of having others follow without having to utter a word.  He challenged me to think critically, and to think outside the box to solve problems.  My grandfather was that type of leader that his actions and words inspired greatness to all he touched.  Like George Washington, my grandfather had great foresight, vision, and the ability to lead people to success.  That is why I am sharing this with others, so they can be inspired to continue to learn.  He was the smartest man I’ve had the pleasure to love, know, share, and learn from.

I learned a long time ago from my time in the Navy that people don’t remember what you have done, but remember what you are doing.  Even while my grandfather was very sick, he continued to worry about his family.  He was not concerned about his own health, but wanted to know how others were doing.  He continued to inspire others for greatness.  I will always miss him and I will never stop hunting for knowledge. I hope others will do the same.

“Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”  Henry Ward Beecher

Please visit Chapman University’s Yellow Ribbon program website for more information on veterans’ support and the GI Bill.