Heritage: Mike Balitsaris

I spent a good part of my growing up in Tennessee at my grandparents house beside the Tennessee river. My cousins and I lived like Tom and Huck, fishing, hiking, boating, and exploring. One thing I remember about my grandfather was he would spend time every day at his desk and he would open the mail with a paper cutter . . . not a regular paper cutter, but one with brass knuckles and a leather sheath which was a little odd and didn’t fit the style of the man I knew. Being so humble and a man of few words, I didn’t know that he made that knife, nor did I know he was in the Navy and fought battles aboard a ship.

I am honored that he gave this knife to me and it’s a constant reminder of him and our time in Tennessee. It speaks of the humility of a strong, brave, and proud man, and of happy simple times. The note he gave me with the knife read, “Hi Mike, I want you to have this knife I made over 61 years ago aboard the USS Coral Sea. Engraved on the handle are the battles we were in.”