The clock is ticking and today would be a great day to honor our fathers, grandfathers or great grandfathers for their service in World War II. Mine is already gone but there are still some left who can tell us all about the horrors of war and what Memorial Day means to them. My dad didn’t talk much about his time in the Marines until much later in his life. It was only when his friends started to die off that he seemed willing to discuss it. I had to prod him with questions about specific events to get him to open up.
Mostly, he stuck with things that were good memories but every once in a while he told stories about horrific episodes like the time he was directing fire for the 3rd Marine Artillery on the island of Bougainville in 1943. His job was to make sure all the map coordinates were hit by cannon fire from his 105mm battery. At the end of the barrage he had done his job so well that several hundred Japanese soldiers had been massacred. He never fired one shot himself but his math skills insured the death of an entire enemy company. I think that weighed on him for the rest of his life. I can only imagine what reading a map would do to his memory of that day.
Anyone who knew him would have a hard time picturing him as a battle hardened Marine. He was happy, compassionate and generous to a fault and he spent the rest of his life trying to give something back to the world. That’s how most veterans deal with the aftermath of wars. They want their lives to be hopeful and happy not scared and painful. They want to know their actions matter to the rest of us and that their sacrifice is appreciated by those who were born into a better world.
In one of my dad’s letters he wrote something I will never forget. He hoped the war would go on long enough to insure that by defeating the Axis powers of Germany and Japan so thoroughly, that we would never have another war like WWII again. He was extremely worried that the politicians in Washington would broker a peace treaty that would leave open the possibility of future conflicts. Think about that for a minute. He was willing to risk his life in the invasion of Japan if it meant the rest of us would never have to worry again. I won’t use his exact words because they were too brutally honest but suffice it to say he wanted to make it impossible for the Japanese Emperor Hirohito to ever even think about attacking the U.S. After more than three years of malaria, jungle rot, rats and bloodletting his only concern was how to keep it from happening again.
If our grandparents were the greatest generation, as Tom Brokaw likes to call them, then ours is the luckiest generation. We still have wars and we still have veterans but most of all we still live in a free country. I’m using the internet right now to post this blog. I don’t believe there would be an internet if we had lost WWII. Totalitarian governments are not at all fond of free speech. Totalitarian governments would never tolerate things like freedom of religion or the right to vote or personal property either. Adolf Hitler tried to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. Do you think he would have stopped there if we had lost the war? Totalitarian means we have no rights whatsoever. The state can do with us as they please. Hitler ordered his minions to slaughter other human beings and they did it out of fear for they own lives. Are we sure that could never happen again? I’m not.
I am sure we would never let it happen again without a fight. I know this much and I owe it all to my dad, freedom is worth any price. The greatest generation paid the highest price and we got the prize, our freedom. So the next time you see some old guy with his VFW hat or his flag lapel pin or with his hand over his heart and tears in his eyes as the Star Spangled Banner plays just go up to him and say “Thank You.”
Happy Memorial Day to all our veterans everywhere, God Bless You!
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.