As I’ve grown older I seem to have gained more of an appreciation for history and particularly for those who played such an important role in our country’s rich heritage.
Compared to some other countries that have been in existence for hundreds, and in some cases thousands of years, how our nation has evolved in less than 250 years boggles the mind. It is equally hard to comprehend that just under 250 years ago a country that started with only 13 colonies, who bravely fought for their independence from the oppression of a motherland, is today arguably the world’s foremost super power and provides a quality of life second to none.
While the growth of our country is the envy of most, it hasn’t been without conflict within its borders as well as those on foreign soil. Details of these wars are graphically written. Volumes of pictures depict the ravages of war and the sacrifices made by so many of our servicemen who came to the aid of our allies, while preserving the freedoms we oftentimes take for granted today.
Scarred by the horrors of war they had to endure, most of those who I met that served in World War II or the Korean War never wanted to talk about the war.Oftentimes I’ve tried to envision the fear they faced as they stormed the beaches of Normandy or the naval battles at Midway or during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. As I came to realize later, to relive these moments was too painful, and for so many years the emotions these men and women have lived with have been bottled up inside. They came back to little or no fanfare and were expected to resume their lives as though they had been on an extended leave of absence from work. None of those I ever spoke with ever mentioned post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and how to cope with it. They all said, “Our duty was to serve our country.”
My generation was the last to experience the draft. Unfortunately Vietnam was not a “popular war,” as most felt it was a political war and not one that was waged to be won. Unlike those who fought in previous wars, these brave men and women didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome and to this day many feel the sacrifices they made have largely gone unnoticed.
Today, we face a different kind of battle within. We have political parties who seem more concerned with preserving the best interests of the party than the nation of people they serve. We have a generation that has grown somewhat immune to the sacrifices so many have made in order for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. With advances in our military’s technology and capability, we have greatly reduced our loss of life on the battlefield. Video games depicting realistic war settings can be fought from the safe confines of a couch with little concern for the consequences. Unless there is a friend or family member currently serving in our military, the sacrifices made by those protecting our freedoms is going unnoticed as their sacrifices have been moved to the back page behind the infighting going on in Washington. As each member from what many call “The Greatest Generation,” passes, the appreciation for their ultimate sacrifice may soon be totally forgotten.
Years ago I had a client who was of Russian Jewish heritage. He spoke eight languages fluently and was brilliant when it came to world politics and what the Russians would do throughout the world, which he outlined in a letter many decades ago to the Governor Connelly of Texas. In the late seventies when Russia and the United States were once again at odds, I asked him if he ever saw the two countries going to war. He quickly replied, “Absolutely not! They (Russia) understand the ravages of war as it has been fought on their soil, where an American President could issue a declaration of war and be out on the golf course later that afternoon.” He continued by saying, “You know how America will be brought to its knees?” When I said I didn’t have a guess, he replied, “Economically!”He continued by saying, “When Cuba started to flex its muscle, Russia slapped them on the hand and said, “Don’t wake the sleeping giant.” To this day I have never forgotten his prophetic words.
On this very special holiday where we proudly display our patriotism with flags, parades and firework displays, I’m reminded of the hard fought battles that continue to this day in order to protect our country’s values and way of life. For me, it is not just this day that I give thanks for my freedom, but every day when I get that subtle reminder just how fortunate we are when seeing a service member in uniform or a veteran wearing a hat inscribed with the ship or war in which they fought. Their valor I will never take for granted, something I hope every generation to come will do as well.