Dear veterans of World War II:
I’ve always been a history buff. I got that from my dad. He used to let me stay up late with him and watch PBS documentaries, often about the war you men and women so bravely fought. I quickly became fascinated by the idea that a group of youngsters just a few years older than myself could save the world.Because that’s what you did. You stared death straight in the face and didn’t even flinch. I know, because both of my grandpas were in the Navy during WWII, while one grandma was a “Rosie the Riveter.” The other was a British war bride.
I’ve heard the stories, I’ve read the first-hand accounts, I’ve watched the movies and I’ve cried over the images. Your generation — so young, so green, so full of promise — literally stopped evil in its tracks.
|My grandpa, James Elton Lanier, U.S. Navy
Your generation, like any other, wasn’t perfect. It saved Jews while mistreating its own American soldiers of different races. It spoke of honor and valor overseas while ignoring injustices in its own backyard. An unplanned pregnancy and subsequent adoption was something to be ashamed of and kept in the shadows. Domestic abuse and addiction often remained hidden and glossed over instead of being dealt with, and children and marriages suffered mightily.But still, time and time again, I have been left in awe of what American soldiers, sailor, Marines and airmen accomplished in the 1940s.In short, the life I enjoy today — the freedoms I so easily take for granted — can be traced partly to you. And so I gladly stand and cross my heart when the Anthem plays. I teach my children about honoring the flag and the values it embodies. And when my 91-year-old grandpa (the one grandparent I have left) can’t remember a blessed thing thanks to the progressing effects of dementia, I remind myself that it is a privilege to take care of a veteran. Reminding him 33 times what time dinner will be is the least I can do for someone who fought for my freedom.
|4 Generations of Riddles, starting with my Grandpa Dale, former U.S. Navy
So today, as I watch the news and see what state our country is in, I cringe. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to apologize.
I am sorry that your own nation now barricades you from your own memorial.I am sorry that you are being used as a political pawn in a fight that most of you have zero control over.
I am sorry that your sacrifices have been forgotten by a generation obsessed with their own comfort.
I am sorry that today’s young people do not emulate their grandparents’ commitment to marriage, choosing to ditch their vows because modern society elevates “following your heart” over fixing what’s broken.
I am sorry that this country does not value its most vulnerable citizens the way you did when you liberated Europe’s concentration camps.
I am sorry that in today’s world a real man is seen not as someone who protects and provides for his family like you did, but someone who pays for his girlfriend’s abortion or child support.
I am sorry that so many of you sit alone in nursing homes with little companionship because the rest of us are too busy.
I am sorry that patriotism and dissent are now seen as suspicious.
I am sorry that hard work is now seen as optional, and personal responsibility and moral absolutes to be mocked.
I am sorry that so many know more about the battle between Kimmel and Kanye than the Battle of Iwo Jima.
|Grandpa Dale receiving a medal at a VFW ceremony for his service
|As a people-pleaser, I admit I say the word “sorry” over far too many things I have no control over, from the weather to other people’s reactions. Sadly, there’s not a lot I can do to rectify this situation, either — except pass on the same sense of right and wrong to my three children that you demonstrated constantly from Pearl Harbor to V-E and V-J Days.
It’s not an arrogant sense of “We’re America, we know better than everyone else and we never make a mistake.” It’s not a holier-than-thou attitude of imperialism and manifest destiny. It’s a guiding principle of everyone’s right to a life free from terror and persecution through community, sacrifice, hard work, education and grace.You didn’t get everything right; no generation does. But you certainly came far closer than anything I’ve seen or studied in my 28 years. You deserve medals around your neck, not metals that keep you out.
And for that, I am sorry.
A Grateful Granddaughter
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