Tom Brokaw’s book of that title—and the fact I grew up in the Great Depression and World War 2—have always made me appreciate that group just ahead of me..the ones who won the war, after having suffered thru the depression.
And now we are losing them, seemingly in record numbers.
I thought about that this week after seeing and reading a number of stories about these people..heroes in many ways to me..and now they are gone.
Such as the oldest winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, dying at 102. All he did was attack German troops opposite him during the Battle of the Bulge. He attacked..not his company. His company was dispirited after 2-3 previous attacks had failed, so he did it himself! And he won, routing a German company single-handedly. ( Sounds like Sgt. York of WW1 fame, doesn’t it?)
Or the man who had been in on the Manhattan project from the beginning..from building the first atomic reactor, to flying on the plane that dropped the first A-bomb on Japan, filming it with his own 16mm camera.
Or the man who took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, lived thru 3 Nazi concentration camps, to become a prominent historian of the Holocaust. Lest we forget. (Another survivor, one of the last women to survive that vulgarity also died recently.) How do we keep the memory of that tragic period alive? But we must.
(UK’s Donovan forum program recently heard from a local living survivor of those camps. If you ever get a chance to hear these people, please do; it will change you. Or see the memorial in Washington. I have seen Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust. It is a sobering experience.)
Some of these deaths remind us of great sacrifices—for good, as in the passing of our CMH winner, with whose life I began this blog. Others remind us of challenges still unfulfilled—as in “with justice to all.”
Last week we marked the passing of a man who spent 41 years in a solitary prison cell, only to be released on Tuesday by a judge who said his last incarceration was unconstitutional..tasted three days of freedom only to die on Friday from cancer. Even knowing of his cancer, among his last words to a friend was..”I’m free!”
To freedom, to that unquenchable desire of the human spirit, I thank those of the Greatest Generation and those since then whose lives remind us of challenges yet unmet, and evils yet to be defeated. Not every old person, as I am, qualifies..but if you meet some of those who do, listen to their stories…and learn.
I'm just sayin'...