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WWII: Saving the World

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WWII: Saving the World

The generation now passing deserves our respect. by Paul Donnelly

     Their not getting any younger, and there are  fewer every day - American's World War II generation.
    They may seem like any other group of old people, mostly retirees now, just old men and women on porches, in nursing homes, parents and grandparents - but they're not.
     When they were young, they saved the world.
   Remarkable now how completely ordinary it seems.
    No other generation in history can make that claim.
     Not the Founders of the American Revolution, the ancient Greeks, and Romans, nor the baby boomers - not even the early Christians.
   Other generations had great struggles; other times had great challenges; but at best here and there were saviors of a town or a country, vanguards of unfulfilled promises, dreamers of vision.
     America's World War II generation did not, as a group, achieve the heroism of an individual like Joan of Arc, nor is there any evidence that their "souls were touched by fire" as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. described the experience of the Civil War when he had grown old.
     But isn't it funny that victory in the most intense, deadly and important struggle in human history should be sort of ordinary to those who won it, and those who benefited?
     America's World War II generation saved the world because it had to be done, and no one else was available to do it.
     It isn't that America's Vietnam generation, for example, both the pro and the con, couldn't or wouldn't have saved the world. They didn't get the chance.

  It isn't that the Russian's, who actually broke the Wehrmacht, or Chinese, who held Japan's best troops

in a death grip, or British or French or any of the rest of the world's peoples, didn't win the war.
     But they didn't save the world from an unspeakable global evil.
     That was the Americans - when as Winston Churchill said, the "new world came to save the old."
     But they weren't vast forces of history, or legendary warriors. They weren't even all combat soldiers, or Rosie the Riveters.
     They were ordinary people - my Uncle Ed, and your mom and dad  - who lived in an extraordinary time.
     So they did what had to be done.
     There was a fair amount of ballyhoo last December, at the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, although it got sticky with tensions on the current U.S. - Japan relationship.
     In a few years, there will be lots of half-century anniversaries of V-E and V-J Day, maybe some prayerful ceremonies honoring the liberation of the death camps.
     The ex-Soviet republics might pause to remember that there was once a place called Stalingrad, and it was very important.
     There will be fewer alive then who actually did those things though.
     So what that 50 years ago today, or last week or next year, a lot of people killed and died for famous victories?
    This isn't about anniversaries, or the all-World War II newsreel channel that every cable TV system seems to have. It's about the old guy you see on the street. with the little poppy in his lapel, or the blue-haired woman who forgets things and rides the bus.
     Let's take a long, last look at these people now, while we have a chance.
     No one has ever done anything like their achievement before - and God willing, no one will ever have to do anything like it again.



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