May 29, 2004

"You have to understand. There was a war."

The AP reports:
Bells tolled from the National Cathedral and swing music from the 1940s rang out at the Mall as veterans of World War II assembled by the tens of thousands Saturday for the dedication of a memorial to their great struggle.

A service of celebration and thanksgiving at the cathedral opened a day of remembrance for a passing generation. Old soldiers, many gripping canes or in wheelchairs, welcomed the tribute to their service while lamenting that the memorial has come too late for so many of their comrades.

"I wish they would have done it much sooner because there's a lot of people from that generation who are gone," said Don LaFond, 81, a Marine Corps veteran from Marina Del Ray, Calif., taking his seat at the Mall on a cool spring morning.

Only about one in four veterans of the war is still alive.
My mother was a WWII veteran. She joined the Women's Army Corps for reasons she would never put in personal terms. I used to ask her, "Why did you join the Army?" I wanted to hear the details of a teenager who cared for her infant sister, named Hope, who was doomed by spina bifida, incapacitating the poor baby's mother with grief, and who went to college, at the University of Michigan, when she was only 16. I wanted to hear about how she had a great passion to leave Ann Arbor, where she had lived all her life, to have new adventures. But her answer was always devoid of a personal story. It was always: "You have to understand how it was for everyone at the time. There was a war."

My father was drafted into the Army after the end date of the war, so he was not, technically, a veteran. They are both dead now and so are among the many of their generation who did not live to see the memorial. They met in the Army. My father had one of those Army office jobs, and so did my mother, who was transferred from working on battle fatigue cases to an office job when it was learned that she could type. My father had made some coffee in his office, and my mother went into the office attracted by the smell of coffee. They were married two weeks later. Personally, I owe my own life to the Army and the smell of coffee, but to be more like my mother, I shouldn't tell it as a personal story: There was a war. People did what had to be done.

8 comments:

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Ann Althouse said...

The comments that I've removed may not have been intended to be offensive, but I considered them inappropriate. Please show some sensitivity in the use of this page.

Derve said...

How sad that your parents, like so many other people, could not be here for this day. Thanks for telling us their story here and in the Freemason posts; so many people have a rosy view of their parents, especially after death.

I hope you honor their memory by distinguishing between their war, and the one we are currently engaged in. There is a big difference, of course you understand? This war is not that war, nor is it fair to say war is war.

Ann Althouse said...

There are differences and similarities. One difference is that everyone who went to Iraq voluntarily joined the military, whereas in WWII, one could only say that every woman in the military was a volunteer. The volunteers are due special respect, and for them the idea that they were needed and so they did what was needed, the idea my mother expressed, has the greatest meaning.

Derve said...

I would say the main difference is WWII was a just, defensive war, whereas the Iraq war cannot be justified.

Bill Dempsey said...

Hi Ann. I am a WWII Vet. Kind of one of the last of the greatest generation. Your Mom was correct. There was a war and we all did what we had to do. That is, every man, woman and child. We were all involved. And I would like to covey to you how we all felt when we came home. We were young and we found out that we were strong and we had just defeated the Axis Powers. We then turned our new found strength to building the greatest economy and free Nation the world had ever seen. I can only say to you succeeding generations - don't mess it up.