On Honoring

Considering that events are like dominos, determining the most significant events in a century is actually difficult – but, for the effect on my life, it’s World War II. With this week marking another anniversary of D-Day Invasion, it’s good timing for this post.

It’s hard to imagine 16 million Americans serving in the Armed Forces at that time – let alone over 400,000 deaths. Then add to that the number of serving the Allies from other countries, and those too that died. Top that off with the huge effort at home. Simply wow!

The survivors became what journalist Tom Brokow called The Greatest Generation – the hard workers, respectful citizens, community leaders, and business leaders that built the success of the post-war America. We baby boomers grew up around these men, and lived a life because of them.

Personally, my dad fought in WW II as an 18 year old who left high school to serve – and he re-enlisted in the 1950s. In 2008, I took him to what would be his last reunion with his friends, and I later wrote about my weekend with the Greatest Generation, a post most of my current readers haven’t seen. (John, you will like it.)

Because WW II was such a defining moment for this country and the world, I’m amazed that the U.S. didn’t have a national monument for the effort until 2004. Then again, perhaps that is because of the humble nature of these men and those times that we didn’t understand until later.

My dad passed away several years ago at age 84, yet he never saw the National WW II Memorial – I now understand that I should have taken him. Honor Flight is an organization with a mission of taking surviving veterans to this worthy memorial in Washington – and doing so free of charge. I encourage readers to consider a donation to this cause.

When Dad passed away, a dinner group friend asked me about making a donation in his memory – and I suggested Honor Flight. Last week that friend sent me a link with an article and a video while saying, “I thought of your dad when I saw this.” Needless to say, and after two years, I was touched and cried for a variety of reason. Enjoy the video.

On Several Connections

This is particular day started as any normal day, and even turned out to be a normal day. Yet, this day had brought forth two strange connections: one odd and one historical.

At handbell practice two of our members revealed their recent discovered they were second cousins as their grandfathers were brothers. It started with one telling the other that he looked like her uncle, and it went from there. A simple oddity of two people at the same church not only not knowing, they first met each other in late August.

The other oddity involved our opening our mail earlier the same day. My dad passed away in September, and one of his requests is that we notify out-of-towners listed in his address book; so, I wrote a two-page story of his life, and we started the process. Since then, my sister and I have received many thoughtful responses – but none was more interesting that the one I received on this day.

This particular one also told a story of Angelo, whom my dad met in 1995 when he returned to Austria as part of the 50th Anniversary of VE day. They remained in contact since that day. Coincidentally, Angelo had died around the time our letter arrived, so this letter was from his surviving wife of 59 years. I can only imagine the tears in her eyes as she wrote the letter.

Angelo was a factory laborer in Italy. Due to the difficult conditions caused by the war, workers had strikes in 1943 and 1944. In early 1944, authorities arrested Angelo and then deported him to Mauthausen-Gusen, a Nazi concentration camp. In May 1945, the US Army, of which my dad was a member, liberated the camps. Angelo’s widow wrote, “For the rest of his life he devoted himself to transit the memory to the younger generations, asking those who listened, not to allow a future recurrence of similar barbarism.”

Although we Baby Boomers not only grew up in the WW II shadows, we didn’t experience the world war first hand. Yet, our connection to that time is closer than we think. Meanwhile, I hope Angelo and Dad have reconnected.