History has always been my thing, but holding an M.A. in the subject doesn’t come close to helping me understand it like documentaries and first-person accounts do. The Great Depression and World War II are the eras I find most fascinating, perhaps because my parents lived through the former, and I was born during the latter. Both were recent enough to be defining factors in my life and the lives of my peers as we grew up.
I weep as I listen to an elderly vet describe how he watched his buddy blown to bits as they stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day, or read the letters of a soldier who never came home to his young wife nor ever held his new baby. I’m humbled as I share the struggles of a young conscientious objector who refused to carry a gun—and suffered physical and emotional abuse even at the hands of his fellow soldiers, yet risked his life as a medic again and again and again to save theirs on the bloody beaches of Iwo Jima—and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions. I stand in awe before the oil painting of the Mathis brothers at the airport in my hometown—both lost on bombing raids over Germany before they were 25 years old.
When I stand in a veterans’ cemetery and survey the vista of white crosses and Stars of David, each one representing a father, son, brother, husband, or friend left to grieve the loss, I feel bereft. I didn’t have to know them to embrace them as my own kin. My heart breaks for them, for their families, and for a society which lost good, productive citizens too soon.
And then I read the news: The American flag—ordered down because it might offend someone. The Pledge of Allegiance—silenced for the same reason. Political correctness runs amuck. A nation divided along color lines and socio-economic levels. Government bureaucracies running roughshod over the citizens who fund them through their hard-earned taxes. Officials who want to “tweak” the Constitution to suit their own ideology. Those who declare the First Amendment null and void unless one conforms to their beliefs and agenda.
The haunting words, “They gave up all their tomorrows for our todays” ring in my ears.
Are we as Americans today really worth the price they paid?
What are we willing to sacrifice to protect and preserve the rights they fought and died for?
Scarlett O’Hara said she’d “think about it tomorrow”. But tomorrow may well be too late.