In the sunset of his years, I remember my father lamenting, “World War II sacrifices are being forgotten.”
In the overwhelming tidal wave of information in our modern world, it can indeed seem that the fading echoes of history, even ones still within our grasp by way of the handful of living veterans, is in danger of being lost.
Dad became an officer and earned his wings at nineteen. The mantel of adulthood weighted boys like him in a hurry when they found themselves face to face with death and carnage.
Dad lost a crewmember in the Pacific theatre of WWII, to a piece of shrapnel that tore through the thin skin of his PB4Y bomber, severing the legs of his crewman. He saw the aftermath of Iwo Jima, dismemberment littering the landscape. His crew photographed from far above, the horror of a flattened, smouldering Hiroshima before even they were informed what had happened. They flew into the eye of a typhoon, something not yet done in those days.
Nothing has changed in present day conflict. Still there are those on the front lines—witness to the costs. No wonder the hollow-eyed gaze of boys turned too-soon to men is still reflected in the modern eyes of war.
The rights so dearly won may at first seem ephemeral, but the absence of them unimaginable to a nation formed on the bedrock of freedom. These very concepts of human rights, dignity, liberty, fill the hearts of every American who has tasted the fruits of their sacrifice. It is on the backs of those valiant men and women dad thought forgotten, that we rest. Home in the bosom of free speech, justice handed down by peers, protection from the storms of any other’s religions or ideals, lest it impinge upon our own.
What would the world look like now had Nazi Germany and the tyranny of 1940 Japan run rough shod over not only our shores, but the world? Cold frissons of dreadful imaginings creep up the spine at the thought.
My grandfather was a doughboy, marching European soil in the “Great War” having left his wife of just days behind. It was four long years before his return to American soil, no doubt having witnessed the unimaginable. Could he have ever dreamed that the ‘war to end all wars’ would too soon lead to yet another, diverting the life path of his son from four years of university into the hell that is war? I can only guess at their anguish as they sent him off.
Those are the sacrifices of people who know the meaning and worth of self- determination and human dignity. Loss of the beloved youth of a nation is deemed not too great a price to insure the future remain intact for freedom loving men and women everywhere.
Today my daughter works a continent away from her roots and home in California in support of these same values. As a U.S. Marine officer she stands shoulder to shoulder with the best young men and women our country has to offer. Her father served in the United States Coast Guard in protection of home shores. They too were and are ready at a moments notice, to defend the constitution of the United States and listen to those echoes of the past when their father, grandfather, great grandfathers put everything on the line.
This Veterans Day if you see a service man or woman, remember to thank them for the days, weeks, months they spend away from the love and support of their friends and family in service to the larger family of their country. Thank too their wives, husbands, daughter, sons, parents who give up the presence and support of their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to keep home and family running smoothly in their serviceman or woman’s absence. It is a lonely, often thankless sacrifice.
Most of all— never forget.