Letter: Do you deserve their sacrifice?
One day, before I fully retired, I asked an eighth grade boy what we celebrate on Memorial Day. He promptly told me “The Indianapolis 500 (race).” I asked all the kids on the bus if they knew what it was called before it was “Memorial Day” and for what event it was named. I told them I would give two of the new dollar coins to the first one to tell me and they could use any source available to get the answer. It took two days for a sixth grader to claim my money. She had to research it – her teacher couldn’t tell her.
HBO has recently finished showing an excellent 10-part mini-series, produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, entitled “The Pacific.” Like “Band of Brothers,” which covered the war in Europe after D-Day, the series chronicles the experiences of specific Marine units in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The story line is mostly based on books written by two participants, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, with added details by some of their buddies who are still alive. It wasn’t about glory. It was about the filth and savagery of fighting a war to protect a way of life and those left at home.
Having just finished watching the series and marveling at the horror and sacrifice that these men suffered for their country, and with Memorial Day approaching, it strikes me that we live in a different country today than the one I experienced as a boy.
Young kids then, with the end of the war a recent event, understood and appreciated the sacrifice of those recently returned and those who didn’t – men like Sgt. John Basilone. Sgt. Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal and, when offered a discharge after a War Bond drive ended, asked to be sent back with newly trained Marines. He died on the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima, earning a posthumous Navy Cross before he was killed. And, when the Korean War started, many of these young men were called back into uniform to serve their country again.
Today, a large percentage of our young people not only can’t tell you what century World Wars I, II and Korea were fought, but many of them are appalled that they might be expected to participate in such an event if their country called. They have grown up in a safe environment, a world of plenty, of extravagance, of “conspicuous consumption” – pampered and believing they are entitled.
The idea that they “owe” their country anything beyond taxes is foreign to them. They are content with the idea that others are willing to sacrifice in their stead.
The fact that some of those “others” return home every day in flag-draped coffins is ignored – unpleasant background noise.
But what are we to expect from these new generations. A recent Rasmussen Poll revealed that those of us who believe that the United States is the last best hope for man are over 70 percent of the population. Sadly, less than half of our political leaders share that belief.
To our young people I would say “Look about you. Dig deeper than the shallow history books that water down the greatness of your Nation. Ask yourself why generations past have produced such magnificent young men and women who would give their lives for what you now enjoy. Ask yourself, ‘Do I deserve their sacrifice?’”
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