The greatest generation had one failing.
An entire generation grew up during the Great Depression, and then came of age fighting the Second World War. They had seen every kind of hell this planet is capable of producing, and had saved the planet from descending into darkness.
When they came home, they wanted to make a new life for themselves. They were determined that their children would not have to suffer the way that they did. Many could not even speak of what they had seen.
Consider the book, Flags of Our Fathers. The primary author, James Bradley, knew that his father had served in the Second World War, but knew little more. When his father died, and he had the task of going through his stuff, he discovered a Navy Cross. Not even his mother knew that he had won it. Furthermore, he discovered that his father was one of the men in the famous picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
One can certainly understand, given the hell that they went through, that they simply could not talk about it, and never really told their children about it. The result, however, was that their children grew up insulated. Their children never really came to know what sacrifices were made to secure their lives. Their parents gave them everything. They grew up with a sense of entitlement.
Nearly the entire baby boomer generation grew up completely ignorant of the horrors that lay beyond their doorstep. They felt the Soviet Union and Communist China, both of whom slaughtered more people than Hitler ever did, were merely misunderstood. Simultaneously, they considered those who gave their lives to protect them to be imperialists. They remained as children, who thought that if you simply tried to understand people, then everyone could live in peace.
Today there are still a significant number of people who remain blitheringly ignorant of the horrors just outside their doorstep. After the Khobar Towers, USMC Barracks in Beirut, World Trade Center Attack of 1993, the USS Cole, and of course 9/11, attacks spanning several administrations with wildly different foreign policies, they still blame the violence on their own nation.
The American people will argue about who is the best person or party to protect their interests. They will argue about who is the best person to keep them safe. Those who would denigrate our brave servicemen, however, are thankfully in the extreme minority. There are arguments about how, where, and who we should fight. The American people have just made it clear that they were not happy about how things have been handled, and that they want someone else to give it a try. The American people are united, however, in the idea that we must fight and defeat those whose stated goals are the subjugation of women, the slaughter of all people of other faiths, the slaughter of all homosexuals, the establishment of a system of law which includes such gems as punishing rape victims by death, and the general destruction of every part of our tolerant society which we hold dear. The big argument is how best to do that.
We stumble. We make mistakes. We change course when we think things are going the wrong way. But the hounds of hell are kept at bay. We are free to go wherever and say whatever we want. We are free to have nasty and vicious arguments and still go home safe every day. We are free to worship as we please, to live as we please, and the worst we have to endure is criticism of others.
For our health, safety, and prosperity every day, we have our servicemen and servicewomen to thank. Every May, we thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Today, we remember those who made it home. Take a moment to think of all you have to be thankful for. Remember that you could not have it if there were not people who put their lives on the line every day to protect it.
Thank a veteran.
P.S. - Happy Birthday USMC!
P.P.S. - Here are a couple of photos of Nicole's Grandpa in Germany in May of 1945. It's especially significant to me, seeing as how both of my parents were born under Nazi occupation.
Her grandpa is "me." MacArtur is, obviously, not that
one.Updated 8/16/07 to correct image links.