Not enough time.
Looking around during the veteran's Day program at Andrews High School today I noticed that several of my father's generation (WWII) were in attendance.
Reflecting back in my writing, it's obvious that I've spent quite a lot of words on this particular generation. I've always admired them and I guess it shows in my writing.
They conquered polio. They kept communism at bay. They took us from AM radio to color television to walking on the moon. They tried to make sure we had a better life than they did, and for the most part, they succeeded.
They grew up in the Great Depression and many had to grow up way too fast during World War II. They survived one and won the other but it seems to me it was the war that defined them as "The Greatest Generation" as Tom Brokaw put it in his book of that title.
My interest was piqued in them when I was around ten years old. I was prowling around in some boxes stored in my parent's closet one day and found a cigar box, inside of which were several Navy medals and other military paraphernalia.
I took them to my dad (William Heston Redwine), who served in the US Navy, and asked him what they were. "Just things that showed I was doing my job", he said.
"What's this one for?"
He told me the story about how he was an amphibious landing craft operator and how, after he had delivered a group of US Marines to their destination, some discarded wax paper grenade wrappers had clogged his boat's pumps. He found himself alone and adrift in the ocean, without power to return to his waiting ship...that would only wait so long. Then he pointed to the faint "souvenir" scars on his hands and fingers that showed the fevor with which he cleared those pumps...and got back to the ship...just in time. This, and his other war stories (the few he would tell) were scary, and still are, even after 60 years.
Later, when I was older, he showed me a documentary hardbound book, filled eith black and white pictures, graphically depicting the horrow and death associated with WWII. In retrospect, I think it was his way of telling me what he went through...without talking about it.
I remember once my dad putting on his US Navy dress uniform and taking our whole family to the cemetery. It turns out he was one of seven service members selected to fire 3 volleys over the gravesite of a fallen Navy veteran. My father was a macho type man and rarely, if ever, demonstrated emotion in front of us kids. But I still envision the expressions of pain and sorrow on his face as he stood at attention after firing his last volley.
Since then, I've read as much as I could, and listened to as many stories as I could, of those people who fought in WWII...and were willing to talk about it.
As such, the reason I am writing this memoir is because this 'greatest generation' is leaving us now at an alarming rate, and we should hear and appreciate such stories. We should remember a time when the neighbor next door, the farmer down the road and the mechanic at the local garage, all put aside their lives so that we might live in freedom.
We must remember, and instill in our children, of a time when ordinary men (and women) went off and did extraordinary things to preserve something priceless.
They weren't the Admirals or the Generals and they seldom got the headlines. And often, if they did receive a medal or commendation, such things ended up stashed away in a desk drawer or cigar box, because, as Heston would put, they were just: "doing their job."
Like saving the world!
So, I've humbly spent a few more words, saluting all our hero veterans of this "greatest generation."
In a small blog.
From a small town.
Because there's not enough time to thank them all.