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Our Veterans and “The Best Generation.”

I was flattered last week when someone I met once or twice in West Palm commented on my blog and how he ended up reading through most of it.  He went on to mention that he also writes often, but had yet to publish it anywhere.  Even though a blog is an amateur publishing platform (there are, however, numerous arguments that bloggers are journalists), it can be terrifying to share what goes on in your head between the grind of your job or classes.

However, with a little nudge of encouragement, those fears can be overridden…with a great article.  With that, enjoy the below post by that same gentleman, Bill Withington.

Sitting this Thanksgiving with some close family friends I sat back and took a long, good look at the gentleman sitting across from me. His skin wrinkly and covered with dark blotches you associate with older people, I found myself trying to imagine this man young, vibrant and spry years earlier. It was not too hard for I possess a vivid imagination. Picturing the man I could think of but only one thing, a soldier in WWII younger than I am today. I tried to imagine what would have been going through his head a mere 20 something year old with literally, a world at war.

As I sat and watched the elderly man, 97 years old in fact, I watched his grandson who is 23 years old only twice throughout the entire evening even acknowledge his grandfather; once when he came to the house and the second time to say good bye. I would revel in the ability to say three words to my grandfather who passed away before I was born. He a WWII veteran just the same as the man I sat across from has been immortalized by my mother for years with stories of his life. Even at a young age my mother appreciated that both her parents were WWII veterans and both grew up faster than any other generation before.  My grandfather served honorably in the US Army as na infantry soldier and my grandmother a nurse in the US Army in the South Pacific. Growing up I did listen to my grandmother speak of WWII and just before her passing she shared with me some pictures of her and her unit in the South Pacific. Cherished was that time and it always will be.  The young grandson has no idea the wisdom he could gather from his grandfather and the stories he could tell him. Lessons I’m sure would suit the young man today and for a long, long time.

At the end of dinner I ran next door and grabbed a picture album my grandfather had collected from his time in Europe during WWII to share with the elderly man. The man was delighted to look through the album and see images that I’m sure conjured up both positive and negative emotions however you could see it in his eyes he was enjoying it very much.

The broadcaster Tom Brokaw put it best when he titled his book from a few years ago “The Greatest Generation” for it is my personal belief that people who grew up going to fight for our country during WWII came home with different perspectives on life and set out post war to create for themselves and the people around them a better world. They probably lived life to the fullest extent possible and did so with great wisdom and great ambition.

There is so much we as a generation can learn from the “Greatest Generation” but so often choose not to listen nor are we aware of the potential for learning from these people. I for one have and always will listen to my elders, to the lessons they can impart on me. It is such an awe inspiring  thing to hear them speak of time before I was even a though in either one of my parents minds, a time when life was simpler in many, many ways but also much more complicated with the almost certain fate of being drafted into the armed services and sent to destinations not even dreamed of. In the end though this generation shaped the world we live in today.

The next time you see and have the opportunity to speak with someone who looks to be in their 80’s or 90’s, ask them about life long, long ago and thank them for their service to our county providing they are veterans.  You might actually learn something….

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