Were they, in fact, the greatest?
Not if you listen to them. One of the hallmark qualities of their generation has always been humility. Most will tell you that they were quite ordinary, no greater than any other generation of Americans. Greatness, they would have you believe, was not something they sought.
Perhaps. But consider the facts. This was the generation who, after growing up in the greatest of depressions, was summoned to fight in the greatest of all wars. Over sixteen million of them lined up to answer their country’s call. In battles on land, sea, and in the air, over 400,000 gave their lives. They defeated the Axis powers, freed Europe, crushed the Third Reich, conquered the Empire of Japan. These were the men and women who, literally, saved the world for democracy.
The Greatest Generation? Without question.
This week, the seventieth anniversary of the mightiest seaborne invasion in history, is an appropriate time to reflect on the Greatest Generation and our connection to them. As you reflect, consider this: today’s young Americans—teens and pre-teens—have the same generational relationship with the Greatest Generation as these old veterans had with . . . imagine this . . . Civil War veterans. When the men and women of the Greatest Generation were in their early teens, thousands of Civil War veterans were still alive, telling stories, sharing history.
This is a powerful concept. It means that when you shake the hand of one of these heroes of the Greatest Generation, you become part of this generational continuum that goes back to the Civil War and beyond. It means you are connecting with history.
Time is short. Take the opportunity this week to seek out one of these veterans. Clasp his hand, listen to his stories, thank him for his service. Make your connection with history. For the rest of your life you'll be glad you did.