WWII vets are the only ones I’ve ever wanted to call heroes. I realize that’s a harsh statement, as I give all honor and respect to every service member in the country.
However, WWII vets….have something, something that doesn’t exist anymore: Pride, honor, humility, an unquestionable sense of duty, but most of all, they seemed to be the last ones to see the Real American Spirit which is quickly becoming what I refer to as “the old country.”
If America called, they rose up, and not because their president, or generals, or bosses, or families, or jobs depended on it, but because they as men had a love for America herself. It was a love as passionate and loyal as any love could come, for her: their lives, and nothing less.
She was their queen, not sitting in a palace, but underneath their fingernails after a hard day’s work, and on the smile of a child, and in the joy of a baseball game, and in the excitement of a voter’s booth.
SHE was behind it all, their true love, and they were the last ones to see it.
Since then she’s been commercialized and sold, lied about and cheapened, distorted by men with hidden agendas and selfish motives. Their love for her has become something to be mocked and spit upon. Some now try to make out her spirit to be the enemy and the culprit to our problems. And now when I see these men, who are nearing the end of their lives, only a handful remaining, I see that their faces still shine with honor and poise from the time when they could fulfill their duty.
They knew the whole world needed their assistance, and they gave everything with a dedication and loyalty which demanded respect, simply because the condition of their hearts spoke louder than their actions. They didn’t just march out of obligation and duty, but out of pride “because we’re the Yanks, damn it.”
Perhaps they were a generation of men and women anointed by God himself, although, some crucial baton did not get handed off, some important lesson did not get passed down, because things began to decrease in morale soon after that. Everything moved to commercial and plastic, and the appearances of home and family were more important that what made them. Though the 1950’s lived with a short blast of innocence and simplicity, it lost a huge chunk of its realness.
Maybe for the next several years the veterans I love so much were quieted inside by their nightmares of combat, unsure of how to begin again in their former glory after taking countless lives and seeing friends and bunk mates fall to the trenches. Maybe Satan himself took that opportunity to rob their sons of the crucial understanding which could have only been passed, not re-learned. Maybe he hardened the hearts of the sons left behind with no father, or planted rebellion in the minds of those whose fathers came back and tried to teach and pass on the ways of old America.
Regardless, the generation gap missed the passing of something crucial by ways of patriotism, respect and honor, and nobody seems to really remember “the old country,” except for those white haired old men whose eyes sparkle at memories long past, of far off places like Germany and England, and Japan. They tell with passion of their loving and loyal, respectable wives holding down the home front with pride and support wholly and unshakably. These men changed the world. These men are my heroes. And they’re almost gone.
And then what is to be said of us, when our patriotic, unyielding, proud forefathers have left and taught us no more? Will the spirit of America die with them, leaving us in a land void of pride, void of patriotism, and mostly void of the courage to stand up and do what is right?
I beg of you, those still here, write down your stories, write down your lessons learned, and tell us how your suffering made you men of character. Remind us, what is now a lost generation, what people once valued and lived for, before the time when we were exploited and sold out and strung out and de-sensitized to everything but personal pleasure.
We need to know that patriotism is more than a red, white, and blue ball cap, and a “proud American” bumper stickers. We need to know that pride in our land is itself not a plastic thing that can be sold at a price and cheaply mass distributed. We need to be reminded of where and what we came from, before It’s too late.
My children may never know you, but I can’t imagine a world without your steady influence in their lives. To these men, I would sill fully trust my life, and endanger it to save theirs.
Thank you for your service. You define hero.