I was born into a World at War in the Summer of ’42. It was six-months after the Attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents–like the mass of Americans–had become war-workers. My father was in the Coast Guard when he wasn’t working on the NY-New Haven & Hartford railroad, and my mother was a welder in the Liberty Shipyards at Narragansett, Rhode Island.
101st Airborne, 1960…
When I turned 17 in the Summer of ’59, I volunteered for the 101st Airborne, US Army . . . the Heroes of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge w/staggering losses. Many of my non-coms and officers were veterans of those conflicts.
My own time in uniform was during the crucible for democracy in the post-war period. General Eisenhower, the former commander of Allied Forces in Europe was President, as soon was John F. Kennedy, a survivor of a battle between his PT-109 and a Jap destroyer in the Pacific. Neither Ike nor Jack took democracy for granted.
Three days before Ike left Office, he warned of the greatest threat then facing democracy: The institutionalization and profiteers of the Military-Industrial-Complex.
The day before D-Day 1944…
Three days later, Jack, contrary to the racist-nationalist “carnage” being employed by the current occupant, exhorted us: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And we did, again . . . in spades.
Please, bear w/my time-line memory for a moment. Having once been youthful myself, I know how one’s historical perspective can be alienated from the past as “ancient history.” When I was serving in the military, the attack on Pearl Harbor and World-War-II were as current as is today 9-11 and the Afghan and Iraqi wars.
I don’t take lightly the lessons I’ve learned of who we are, what we are, and how we got here. For me, making that meta-assessment is never frozen in time, or taken for granted. Ultimately, I have to look at one’s current beliefs and actions in order to assess who and what we are . . . just as I myself have been so determined.