Once, they filled our world, these giants among men and women. They were our mothers, our fathers, our aunts, uncles, neighbors. They never claimed to be heroes. They never claimed to be anything more than what they believed that they were: Americans. We were raised so closely to them that we saw them with their everyday faults. Going to normal jobs, trying to make enough money to raise a houseful of children. They were born either during, or directly after the ‘Great War: The War To End All Wars’. They toddled through the Roaring Twenties. They suffered through the Great Depression. They watched the war clouds gather over Europe and erupt into the horror of the European Theatre, and were surprised and shocked when America was so brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor. One thing that is crystal clear to me: The term "The Greatest Generation" is the only one that could be given those who lived and died in those years. They came through the Great Depression and made due with less than we can even imagine. They helped each other out, and when their freedom was threatened, they answered the call with unquestioning Patriotism. Somehow, after Pearl, they managed to get this country on a war footing and made the tools needed to fight back. They volunteered for the Armed Services without so much as a second thought.Those who fought in the war did so even though they knew there was a very good chance that they would die. I cannot begin to imagine what those brave souls were thinking in those last few minutes and seconds before hitting the beaches at Normandy, or the beaches on all of those islands in the Pacific. The beaches became killing fields, where many a brave soul died, giving their lives in the defense of freedom. Those who were deemed unfit to serve, nevertheless served on the homefront, working in the factories and on the docks to get the necessary munitions and supplies to the troops. They built over 2700 Liberty Ships in the four years of the war. They built tanks, jeeps, fighter aircraft, bombers, every kind of vehicle and aircraft that was needed to preserve our freedom and to help free Europe and the Pacific. They did it all, without complaint. After the war, led by a General Of The Army who hated war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, they built the infrastructure that is now in such terrible shape. Highways, super-highways, tunnels, bridges, city streets. They did it all. They made America into an economic superpower by diligently working together towards that common goal. They created the best educational system in the world, Kindergarten through High School. They did it all.
On weekends, the families gathered together for a meal, remembering how tough it was when food was scarce and all they had was each other. Those family gatherings that I remember seem so much more cheerful than the ones that I attend today. They were just happy to be alive. Every memorial day, they would go to the main streets of our country and watch the veterans of the great wars march by.
They are slowly fading into history now, these brave men and women. They are all in their ‘80s and ‘90s; but their mark will be felt for generations yet to come.
This coming Monday, Memorial Day 2012, while you are enjoying your cookouts and family gatherings. While you are at the beach, or enjoying the opening of your local pool; just take a moment to reflect on those who have passed who gave us so much, and those few that still remain that now need our support and love. Remember all they did so that we may continue to live relatively free. I give my undying gratitude to them all. Happy Memorial Day.