The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but it has been composed to be an everlasting possession, not the showpiece of an hour.
- Thucydides, c. 400 B.C.
Perhaps I should just keep quiet, stop expressing my dismay at the rampant criticism of our military, the war in Iraq, and just about anything our supposedly warmongering President says or does.
After all, not everyone has spent 20 years as a military dependent and part-time employee, or the last two years researching Columbia Countys involvement in the American Revolu-tion and Civil War, as I have.
And, too, perhaps even in so great a military retirement center as the environs of Fort Gordon, few others have just visited the graves of family members whose tombstones bear insignia honoring years - not months or weeks - of service to their country in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific during World War II. But, as you can see, keeping quiet about something I feel this strongly about isn't easy for me, so here goes.
Besides visiting the family cemetery plot during my recent trip to Maine, I had the much more pleasant experience of spending a day with two of my uncles, one who fought in World War II and the other who later served 20 years in the Air Force. They took turns telling war stories, theirs and those of their brothers. My favorite was the one about Uncle Jack and his girlfriend who were separated for 3-4 years during the war. What we didnt know then was that they had eloped before he left, which allowed Uncle Jack to send his "wife" a monthly allotment all that time. When he came home they had a public wedding - to satisfy the family - and bought a farm with the money they had saved. Tom Brokaws Greatest Generation, we agreed, was aptly named.
Whats happened to our country in the past 50 years? Are we old-timers suffering from selective memory? Did we just think our patriotism was real? Aside from the pride I believe most of our fighting men and women continue to have today, the country was proud of them back then, too. Even as a child, I remember waiting each night to hear how much closer the Allies were to Berlin and the end of the war in Europe than they were the day before. Today we listen for the body count, and lash out at those on our own side who are killing our troops.
Maybe this is what happened:
In todays all-volunteer military, more enlistees join for a career than for a cause. Its a job, a chance to learn a marketable skill, a savings account for higher education later on.
Likewise, or perhaps this has always been true, those with civilian jobs join the Reserves or National Guard for the extra income that once-a-week, one week-end a month, and two weeks a year provide for their family, like an insurance policy we buy but never expect to use.
Maybe its also what one historian calls looking at history through present-tense eyes.
Several years ago, while on a tour of northern Germany, our group stopped in the village of Remagen where the Allies blew up the last standing bridge across the Rhine River, thus cutting off the enemys supply route and, effectively, hastening the end of World War II. One of our group had been there in 1944 and, through misty eyes, recounted the battle for us and marveled at the recovery the town had made.
But how could you have a war here? a younger man wanted to know. Its so beautiful.
Based on a description of American education today, best-selling author, Kenneth Davis, is right. There are many incredulous, under-50 Americans today who dont know much about his-to-ree, and what they do know is filtered through see-no-evil, 21st-century eyes. With history fading rapidly from the curriculum of all our schools, its no wonder the gulf between The Greatest Generation and the Gen-Xers is growing fast.
Sadly, according to a Heritage Foundation brochure, Without a heritage, every generation starts over.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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