Tag Archives: Greatest Generation

Discouragement of youth: an eternal condition

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates

The man who said these things about the youth of his era  lived four centuries before Jesus’ birth.

Socrates was one of those great Greek classical philosophers and thinkers whose words live for eternity. So, too, do his concerns about youth.

I think of these words when I hear people disparage today’s younger generation. I think of them knowing that Socrates felt this way long before the world was introduced to the teachings of those we follow today.

I have begun looking once again at a volume I’ve cherished for many years. “The Greatest Generation,” written by broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, tells of the heroism of those who fought during World War II, returned home build their lives and in the process build the mightiest nation the world has ever seen.

Yes, they were great men and women. But they’ve been followed by other great generations, too. Men and women who sacrificed for their country. Many paid the ultimate price. Others came home and, by golly, built their own lives and continued the work started by many millions of others who came before them.

And all the while they have griped out loud about the youth of their era. They wonder whether civilization as they know it will survive those who “tyrannize their teachers,” or those who “contradict their parents” or “gobble up dainties at the table.”

I am supremely confident civilization as we know it will survive. Indeed, it might even become even better than what we know today.

My sense is that Socrates might have known that to be the case when he offered the quotation attributed to him back in the day.

My new favorite holiday? Umm, maybe

The older I get the sappier I become.

My wife and I spent a glorious evening with Emma, our 6-year-old granddaughter. We ventured to the other side of Princeton, Texas — which isn’t all that far, to tell you the truth — to enjoy some Independence Day festivities.

The city put on its Fourth of July Spectacular at Caldwell Park, which happens to include a one-time World War II prisoner of war encampment where Nazi soldiers were kept near the end of the war.

Emma enjoyed some rides, sipped and nibbled on a snow cone, then sat with us as we listened to music superstar Lee Ann Womack belt out some country/western tunes before a large crowd gathered in front of the stage.

Then the fun really got started. The fireworks display — which I sought to capture with the photo that accompanies this blog post — was nothing short of spectacular.

I love the pageantry associated with the Fourth of July. The older I become the more I enjoy listening to the patriotic music while the rockets’ red glare lights up the night sky.

Truth be told, I’ve always been a bit of a sap about this particular holiday. My parents imbued it in me as a youngster. Perhaps it has something to do with Dad’s role in ridding the world of tyranny during World War II. He was proud of his Navy service, although he didn’t brag about. The Greatest Generation is not full of braggarts; it is full of heroes who did their job, answered their country’s call to duty, then returned home to start or restart their lives. That was Dad in a nutshell.

Mom, too, told me of how the Port of Portland, Ore., turned into a “liberty ship” assembly line, cranking out cargo vessels at a clip of one per month. You remember these tales of greatness in the face of international crisis.

So we watched the fireworks tonight. We listened to music. It was our way of saluting this great nation of ours.

What’s more, we did it with our precious little girl.

How in the name of all that is good can it possibly get any better than that?

D-Day veterans earned the world’s eternal gratitude

They’re old men who once — in the prime of their youth — stormed out of boats into too-deep water and onto a beach. They were greeted with merciless fire from an enemy force determined to keep what it had captured.

The young men fought their way across the beach. Their triumph was far from secured when they were able to maintain their hold on the small strip of land they had just touched.

They kept fighting. And fighting some more. They hailed from nations around the world. They were Americans, Brits, Canadians, French, Poles, Dutch, Danes, Greeks, Australians and New Zealanders.

Seventy-five years ago they sought to open a new front in the war in Europe. They landed in Normandy, France on a mission labeled Operation Overlord, aka D-Day.

These old men now are among a diminishing group of heroes who fought to save the world from Nazi tyranny. They would succeed eventually. The Third Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years crumbled under the might of the forces that fought their way into Germany from that beach in Normandy and from the east, where the Soviet Red Army was exacting its own brutal vengeance against the Nazis.

Today we honor the young men who answered their nations’ call. Dignitaries will offer high-minded salutes to those young men. A few of those young men will be there among the dignitaries. They have aged. They’re now well into their 90s, meaning that most of those who are still with us today likely won’t be around for the next landmark commemoration of the D-Day landing.

One day all those young men will no longer be among us. I have sought in recent years to shake the hand of World War II veterans when I see them wearing those ballcaps identifying them as members of the Greatest Generation. I want to thank them for saving the world from the monsters who sought to subject us all to their oppression.

But here’s the deal: Those veterans who saved the world from the tyrants quite often don’t advertise their heroism. They fought hard, earned the victory and then returned home to resume their lives. Their heroics? “We just did our duty,” they might say.

D-Day was a seminal event in world history. Those who are the products of those men need to understand fully what they did when they stormed ashore in the beach in France. Indeed, all of us who came into this world after that worldwide war should honor their forebears’ effort to save the world.

That’s what I want to do at this moment . . . and always.

Pearl Harbor signaled an awakening

Seventy-seven years ago today, warplanes swooped in from over the ocean and laid waste to a U.S. naval base and nearby Army airfield at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S.A.

The event brought the United States into the global conflict that already had swallowed Europe.

I don’t want to recall the destruction of what occurred in Hawaii that day. We know what happened there, with thousands of American sailors and soldiers dying at the hands of the attackers.

This day marked the birth of America’s Greatest Generation. These men and women answered the call to duty, they rushed to save the world from the tyrants who would do what they did at Pearl Harbor and worse, what they were doing to civilians in Europe and Asia.

We’ve spent a good deal of time remembering one of those young Americans who thrust themselves into harm’s way. Young George Herbert Walker Bush had a college career waiting for him, but he put it on hold. He enlisted in the Navy and became the youngest naval aviator during the war. He faced a harrowing shootdown and rescue by an American submarine in the Pacific Ocean.

He was one of an estimated 16 million Americans who did as the late president did. My father was among those who got into the fight quickly. He, too, felt the enemy’s wrath — in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

Pearl Harbor signaled a new day in global geopolitical history. It thrust the United States into a worldwide conflict. It mobilized our industrial might and turned it into the world’s greatest military machine.

It also heralded the birth of a generation that demonstrated courage beyond measure. We honor those Americans today while we recall the tragedy that sprang them into action.

Did they make it back home?

This picture appeared on an earlier item I published on this blog. It’s from World War II.

The men you see in this picture are part of the Greatest Generation, the fellows who answered the call to save the world from despotic tyrants in Europe and in Asia.

I see photos such as this and wonder on occasion: Did these men survive their mission and were they able to serve for “the duration” of the war and return home?

Normally I don’t spend a lot of time wondering these things, but they do cross my mind on occasion.

I am thinking at this moment of an exhibit I’ve seen a couple of times in Fredericksburg, Texas. It is the Nimitz Museum on the War in the Pacific. Fleet Admiral Carl Nimitz was a native of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country and the city is rightly proud of its most famous son. He commanded naval forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.

It is full of picture of men sitting aboard landing craft as they prepared to storm ashore at any one of the many island battlegrounds where the fought. I look into the eyes of those men and wonder if they survived.

Granted, those young men — if they did make it home and are alive to this day — would be very old men now. Indeed, I am the product of a member of the Greatest Generation. My own late father would be 97 years old. He saw his combat on the other side of the world, in Africa and in the Mediterranean Sea.

Another exhibit that evokes such a feeling is the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, N.M. It sits on a bluff overlooking a gorgeous valley amid the New Mexico mountains. It is the product of a man who lost his son in battle during the Vietnam War. It, too, contains pictures of men facing extreme danger, along with letters they had written home to their loved ones. The letters express the anxiety and, yes, the fear in the men’s hearts as they prepared to fight a determined enemy.

You look at those pictures as well and ask: Did they return home and were they able to start or re-start their lives with loved ones, to rear their children and welcome their grandchildren into this world?

The pictures are the faces of men who have ventured straight into hell on Earth and you hope that by God’s grace they were able to return to their earthly home.

Last of The Greatest Generation

Of all the tributes that have poured in after the death of former President George H.W. Bush, the one that gives me significant pause is this one: He is the final member of the Greatest Generation who will serve as president of the United States.

Wow, man! Think about that one for a moment.

The past four presidents have come from the Baby Boom generation: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump; Clinton, Bush and Trump all were born in 1946, the year after World War II ended; Obama was born in 1961.

But prior to those men’s election, the nation was led by a number of men who had served during World War II. Jimmy Carter was born in 1924, but didn’t graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy until 1946. The others all served during World War II; many of them saw action during the great conflict.

Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and, of course, Dwight Eisenhower all wore the uniform during World War II. It could be argued that Ike was the greatest among the Greatest Generation, given that he served as Supreme Allied Commander of forces in Europe.

George H.W. Bush also distinguished himself during World War II. He was the youngest naval aviator on active duty. He got shot down over the Pacific Ocean and was plucked from the water by a U.S. submarine.

Why is it a big deal to remember this as we honor President Bush? Because his passing represents the end of an era. I mean there will be no one else ever elected to the nation’s highest office who shares the history of the men I noted already.

The same can be said of Korean War veterans. They, too, have grown old. The Vietnam War generation comprises Americans who are getting long in the tooth as well . . . and yet, I hear that former Secretary of State/U.S. Sen. John Kerry — a Vietnam War combat vet — is pondering whether to run for president in 2020.

President Bush’s death serves as a metaphor of sorts for what the nation is experiencing with regard to the 16 million Americans who helped save the world from tyranny. We’re losing these men and women every hour of every day. I don’t know how many of them are left, but I do know they are in their late 80s and 90s. Time will take their toll.

President Bush’s passing should remind us of the need to appreciate the service others of his generation — the Greatest Generation — gave to the nation they love.

Dad would be appalled in the extreme

My late father wasn’t a particularly political individual. He didn’t have a lot of deep-seated political views that he shared regularly.

Dad, though, was a proud veteran of World War II. He served in the Navy, seeing combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

Thus, when I see pictures such as the one above — taken at an April 2018 neo-Nazi rally — I wonder: What would Dad think? How would he react?

He’s been gone for more than 38 years. To this day I have no particular memory about a discussion between us about neo-Nazis or those who sympathize with the monsters who in the 1940s tried to kill Dad and those who fought alongside him.

There has been a significant increase in the open demonstrations of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others of their ilk during the past few years. Some of it was a response to the 2008 election of our first African-American president, Barack H. Obama. More of it came with the election of his successor, Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, such KKK luminaries as David Duke, the former Klan grand lizard, er … wizard, have commented openly about the joy they felt when Trump was elected in 2016.

So, I am able to some dots. Duke and other KKK members praise Trump’s election and we see a rise in Klan and Nazi activity across the land. Coincidence? I, um, don’t believe so.

The sight of this political idiocy makes my blood boil. I realize that our Constitution grants all citizens — no matter how disgusting their political views — the right to carry on as these idiots are doing.

I only can ask: How in the name of human decency can they burn a swastika and believe it will persuade anyone to join their perverted cause?

Dad and all those members of the Greatest Generation would be appalled.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole; thank you for saving the world

Robert Dole’s 95th birthday shines a vivid light on what we all have known for a long time.

It is that the world’s Greatest Generation is getting very old. Many of them are in failing health. They remind us daily — even without saying a word — of the sacrifice they made to protect us from tyranny and the tyrants who practiced it.

I saw a gentleman today, in fact, with a “World War II Veteran” ballcap. I thanked for him saving the world from the monsters who sought to enslave the world. He smiled and said, simply, “You’re welcome.”

That’s how it is with the Greatest Generation. They went to war, did their duty, answered the call and returned home to start their lives, rear their families, and live normal existences.

Sen. Dole is getting his share of good wishes today. He earned them all. He served for decades in the U.S. Senate, representing Kansas. He ran for president a couple of times, winning the Republican nomination in 1996 and then losing to President Clinton who won re-election in near-landslide proportions.

His service, though, preceded his political years by a good bit. It began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and deployed to Italy, where he fought the Germans in the waning weeks of World War II.

Dole was wounded grievously in the Italian mountains. His right arm was shattered. He would keep his arm, but it became virtually useless.

He didn’t let the wound stop him from fulfilling many years of dedicated service to the country.

That’s how the Greatest Generation rolls. Indeed, subsequent and preceding generations of fighting men and women have exhibited these traits of selflessness.

However, I want to single out the Greatest Generation as a way to recognize one of its members, his service to the nation and take note of time’s inexorable march onward.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole. And thank you.

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

‘First lady of the Greatest Generation’

I cannot let this day pass without offering one more tribute to Barbara Pierce Bush, although I won’t take any credit for a profound description of her offered today during her funeral.

It came from historian, author and journalist Jon Meacham, who called Mrs. Bush “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.”

Think about that for just a moment.

She died this week at age 92. She was married for 73 years to the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who, before he was elected vice president and then president compiled a stellar record of accomplishment.

Meachem’s tribute to his friend spoke eloquently about the generation of which she was such an integral part. She married the love of her life, U.S. Navy Lt. jg. George Bush, who came home on leave from World War II to marry the love of his life. He had been shot down while fighting Japanese warriors over the Pacific Ocean. He was among the 16 million Americans who answered the call to defeat tyranny and defend the United States of America.

His beloved “Bar” worked at the home front while her man was far away.

Yes, Mrs. Bush served in that unofficial — and until today, it was the first time I’d ever heard it said — capacity as “the first lady of the Greatest Generation.” Indeed, the direct descendants of those then-young American men and women — and that includes yours truly, as my father also fought the tyrants in Europe — understand what Meachem’s tribute was meant to convey.

She stood as strong in defense of our nation’s values as the man she married more than seven decades ago.

I want to thank Jon Meachem for telling us all today about Barbara Pierce Bush’s contributions to forging the Greatest Generation.