When I was growing up in the late 40s and early 50s--and even later--World War II was not history but rather part of our daily lives, even though it had ended. Our fathers had gone off to war--and some had not returned. I don't remember hearing the war talked about, but it was there. Even if we didn't understand the enormity of it, we all felt its consequences one way or the other.
Each school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, followed by the Lord's Prayer. Air raid drills, in which we climbed under our desks and hid our faces in our folded arms, occurred as regularly as fire drills. We considered the latter more interesting because we got to go outside.
We stood for the national anthem, whenever and wherever it was played. The American flag flew over public buildings and not as an advertisement for anything. The Fourth of July meant fireworks in the park and, if we were lucky, a traveling carnival with rides and games.
It was not questionable to be a patriot in the days before political correctness decreed that school children--and anyone else--could thumb their noses at the idea of respecting the flag and the country it stood for.
On the heels of World War II came Korea. I remember using my wonderful box of crayons to draw "war maps", although I had no idea what that really meant. But I remember plainly the day that the announcement of the armistice came over the television. My grandparents owned one of the first sets, and I was on my way out the back door when I heard the words. Even almost sixty years later, I can feel myself poised beside that door, head turning towned the black-and-white set, ears alert. I knew something big had happened.
My generation grew up and went to Viet Nam. The turbulent, devisive era shaped our maturing years. When I taught history in high school, the local VFW acquired speakers for my class, but I always declined a veteran from Viet Nam. Remembering how those gallant men had been treated by their countrymen, I couldn't ask them to relive those days for a generation of students who had no conception of how terrible war really is.
My generation lost fathers in World War II and Korea--and we lost friends and classmates in Viet Nam. We are still at war. I cannot see a man or woman in uniform without tearing up. I cannot watch documentaries or fictionalized accounts, especially about World War II, without aching for what so many endured and lost. I grow angry when those who never experienced military service mouth platitudes about those who did.
So I feel especially gratified to have had my short story, "So Long Ago and Far Away" chosen for the newest Silver Boomers' anthology, The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military. The book will be available in early August, and I would like to give away one copy to someone who visits this blog. Leave a comment between now and August 1 to be entered in the drawing.
Meanwhile, visit Silver Boomer Books to read more about the anthology and the contributing authors.
May God bless America and those who shed their blood to preserve it!