I have made another command decision, which I can do now that I no longer work for anyone else.
From this day forward I intend to thank every World War II veteran I see. The only way to know you’ve seen a WWII vet is when you see someone wearing a gimme cap or a t-shirt identifying a member of The Greatest Generation.
I saw a gentleman this afternoon in front of a fast-food joint in Allen, Texas. He was wearing one of those caps. I extended a hand to him and said, “Thank you for saving the world.”
If you do a bit of simple math, you learn about the ruthless march of time. In 1945, the last year of World War II, the youngest enlistees were 17 years of age, meaning they were born in 1928.
That makes ’em 90 years of age today. If they’re still among us.
During the length of World War II, the United States put roughly 16 million men and women into uniform. Many of them were thrown into harm’s way.
Their numbers are diminishing every hour of every day. They need a thank you from their descendants. I plan to offer them whenever I see a veteran from that great conflict.
I have been unable since September 1980 to thank my favorite World War II. My father — who died 38 years ago — enlisted in the Navy in February 1942; he was 20 years old at the time. He wanted to get into the fight. Oh, brother, did he ever … get into it.
The thing is, Dad enlisted and pledged to fight “for the duration” of the war, not knowing when — let alone if — he would be returning home. That, I submit, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than what those of us who served in Vietnam faced when we were called to duty. We knew when we were coming home.
The Greatest Generation’s task was to save the world from tyranny. They succeeded. They came home, returned to their former lives and for the most part didn’t talk much about the hell they endured.
These men and women have earned a heartfelt thank you from those of us who came into this world upon their return.
I intend to give it to them.