Tag Archives: Greatest Generation

Happy Veterans Day everyone!

Occasionally I feel a little strange paying tribute to veterans, given I am one myself. I mean, it’s a bit embarrassing to offer thanks to veterans, implying that I am thanking myself for the tiny bit of military service I gave to the nation I love.

But … what the heck. I’m going to do so again today.

You’ve heard me go on and on about my favorite veteran, my Dad, the late Pete Kanelis, a sailor who saw combat in World War II. He went to the armed forces recruiting office on the very Sunday the Japanese hit our military installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He intended to join the Marine Corps, but the USMC office was closed, so he walked across the hall to enlist in the Navy.

Those men served “for the duration” of the war effort. In late 1941, they had no way of knowing when — or if — they would return home. Dad knew the risk, but he was angry enough to follow his gut instinct. Dad wanted to get into the fight, and he did … along with 16 million other Americans.

These veterans are dying steadily these days. The last count I heard of the living World War II generation of veterans was fewer than 400,000.

The nation these days is bending over backward to thank veterans. Given that I am one of them, I accept the nation’s gratitude with humility. My own service in another war was insignificant, but it surely never lessened my own love of country, nor my commitment to serve my country honorably.

Millions of men and women have donned the uniform of all the services we deploy in time of war and peace. And at the risk of sounding a bit self-serving, I extend my heartfelt thanks — not just to the Greatest Generation that included my Dad — but to all the vets who did their duty with honor.

Youngsters will do just fine

I want to take up the cudgel for the younger generation of Americans who are going to inherit the nation from us old folks.

So very often I hear from those who lament today’s young Americans. They aren’t this or that; they rely too much on this or that; they are selfish; they are unmotivated; they are self-centered.

Well, if that sounds familiar, it should.

It’s the same kind of thing our parents said about us — and to us, for that matter. Their parents said the same thing about them. On and on it has gone … forever. My parents, especially my dad, bitched out loud about “today’s youth,” telling me that those of my age weren’t worthy of taking over the country he would leave behind.

I don’t recall challenging him in real time as he griped at me. I can’t tell him today what I have learned about myself and my generation, as he is no longer with us.

What’s more, I have noted already on this blog about the wisdom uttered by an ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who griped five centuries before Jesus’s birth about how young people didn’t show proper respect to their elders.

I am leery of doubting the great man’s view of his world. I just know that generations of human beings since the beginning of time have said those disparaging things about young’ns, only to be proven wrong as the “next generation” comes of age and manages to keep our society forging forward.

I remain quite confident that today’s young people will be able to take the baton from us old timers and will lead the United States to its next level of greatness … however it will define itself.


Waiting for next ‘greatest generation’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The nation is about to say goodbye to yet another Fourth of July holiday and it gives me pause to reflect on a conversation I had a few days ago with a North Texas gentleman who offered an observation I felt compelled in the moment to challenge.

He told me he was unsure that today’s young people would be able to storm the beaches of Normandy the way they did on June 6, 1944 when Allied forces launched the campaign to liberate Europe from the tyranny that had gripped it tightly.

I begged to differ from my friend’s view. “Oh yes they would,” I told him. I said my only hope that be that there would be no need for them to mobilize and to act the way our parents and grandparents did.

I long have saluted the Greatest Generation, the 16 million Americans who suited up for World War II. Of that total, fewer than 400,000 are still with us. My dad was one of them. So were several of my uncles and my father-in-law. They’re all gone now and I honor their heroic acts damn near daily.

I do not believe,  though, that they will be final generation of Americans to step. Indeed, the 9/11 generation is full of incidents of young men and women signing up for active military duty on the day the terrorists struck us on that horrifying day, much like my own dad did when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

The annals of heroism are full of episodes of greatness among the current generation of young Americans who are fighting for their country. They, too, are facing unique obstacles as they battle face to face with enemies of our way of life.

They are the heirs of the Greatest Generation who, I am convinced, are set to forge their own path to greatness. I am proud of them.

We’re in good hands

Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, was a brilliant thinker to be sure. He also was dead wrong as he sought to forecast the future of civilization.

The quote you see attached to this blog is attributed to Socrates, who died more than 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He lamented the disrespect shown by young people. If we were to take what the great man said to the bank, we would indeed be in a world of hurt.

I, though, remain an eternal optimist. Two young women I spoke with today give me ample reason to attest to what many of us know already: that we are going to leave this good Earth in the best of hands.

The women — Savannah Sisk and Aubrie Rich — are Farmersville High School seniors. They are the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2020. I spoke to them to gather information for a story I am writing for the Farmersville Times, so I will not divulge what they said; I do not want to scoop the newspaper.

However, I want to declare that these two young women symbolize great young people all across this land of ours. Their stories are far from unique. Indeed, similar stories can be told everywhere, in every city and town in this country.

My boss assigned me this story thinking I would like to take a break from the sausage grinder of politics and public policy. Brother, was she correct. Speaking to these two individuals filled me with optimism and hope. They offered clear visions of where they intend to go, what they intend to do with the rest of their lives. They spoke with wisdom and clarity about the challenges they faced during their senior year at Farmersville High School; they were challenges that none of them saw coming as their school was essentially shut down because of a worldwide pandemic.

I told both of these two young folks — neither of whom I have met face to face — how proud I am of them. To be sure, I am proud of all the young achievers who have finished one chapter of their lives and are ready to open the next one.

Do they disrespect their elders, are they tyrants of their households, do they display bad manners? No. They prepare to do great things.

I’ll get back to the humdrum of politics in due course. At this moment, I merely want to salute what well could be the next “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.”


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.