Securing The Legacy Of The Greatest Generation


June 6, 2014, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the operation that began the Allied invasion of German-occupied Western Europe,ultimately leading to an Allied victory in WWII. Revisiting the details of this phenomenal event, again, served to remind me of the incredible accomplishments of the Greatest Generation, especially their gaining that victory in the face of overwhelmingly impossible odds. This led me to consider how we are doing with the priceless legacy we have been entrusted with through that generation’s victory and beyond that, to consider what lessons remain for us in their accomplishments that could lead to our gaining victory over today’s issues that may seem just as overwhelmingly impossible.

During the 70th anniversary celebration of D-Day, I read an awe-inspiring story entitled 93-year-old WWII Vet to Parachute into Normandy – Again. This was the story of Jim Martin who, as a private in the 101st Airborne, was one of the paratroopers dropped behind German lines in the hours before the D-Day landings. Jim determined that, to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day, he would go back to Normandy, to parachute onto the same soil he touched seven decades before and he did just that. Reading Jim’s story provided reminders for me about the unique qualities of his generation and that brought illumination to my considering the application of those qualities in resolving the most significant challenges facing us today.

One enlightening point of Jim’s story came from him talking about the 101st Airborne’s mission related to D-Day. Their mission was to keep the Germans from reinforcing their troops on the dunes. Jim and his comrades landed right in the middle of those German reinforcements.”That was a slaughter-house,” he recalled. “There was SS all over the place, and they just slaughtered us. My colonel was lost. My company commander was lost.” What was supposed to be three days of fighting in Normandy went on for a month.”That’s the way we were trained, we accepted that,” Jim says. “And no matter how many people are there against you, what the odds are doesn’t matter. We’re going to win.” Perhaps the most enlightening point in Jim’s story, though, was his simple conclusion that this took place “in a time when … right was right and wrong was wrong, and everyone knew the difference.”


Since I’m a Baby Boomer, I didn’t live through that time. But, much of life in America when I was growing up was very similar to the way it had been prior to my generation. And, of course, since I was raised by those who did live through that time, I heard countless detailed first-hand stories of what life was like prior to my generation. In addition to the enlightening points I gained from Jim Martin’s story, it led me to reflect on other values that were common “back in the day” that are now rare or missing altogether and to immediately recognize how restoring them would greatly benefit our community today. As I was considering stories from my experience that might best illustrate some of these now-rare values , I came across a couple of articles that included a few examples of what I had in mind. Since I felt that these, along with those from Jim Martin’s story, supply a sufficient sense of those once-common values, rather than “reinvent the wheel” on this topic, I decided to provide the following related excerpts from those articles:

The first article is from The Legacy Project at Cornell University. It’s entitled Going, Going, But Not Yet Gone: The Greatest Generation. In my view, the key portions of this were the following quotations from members of the Greatest Generation who had been interviewed as part of the project:


“My first job? Delivery boy. Seventeen bucks a week, that was big money back then. Then I became a tool and die maker’s apprentice in a machine shop on Saturdays. Then I had a friend, her father was a shop steward in a commercial bakery, so I got a big increase. I joined the bakery as a truck driver. That was a dollar fifty an hour. I did that on the weekends, on Saturdays and summers. I had to. I had no money. I used to walk home because I couldn’t afford the subway.” 


Let me tell you, in the 1930s we had the Depression. If you think you got a Depression today, it’s nothing like it was then. People didn’t even have enough to eat back then. A lot of the dads in the neighborhood weren’t working. And we shared simple things because people didn’t have money. We’d maybe get a nickel once in a while. We were half a block from a wonderful park, they had lots of activities there for kids, and wading pools, and we had a huge skating pond down there. And they’d have band concerts down there in the summer the whole neighborhood would go down there. There were popcorn wagons parked all around there. We kids would have a nickel and we’d sit there for several minutes trying to decide “What should I have?” And these poor guys, they’re trying to wait on you, they’re patient waiting for you to decide: Do you want popcorn or do you want ice cream? You want a Holloway sucker or what do you want? And once in a while at the movies, they would have Saturday matinees for kids, for ten cents. And after the movie if we had another nickel we’d stop at a place that had ice cream and popcorn and we’d get that. And boy, we really had a Saturday afternoon.” 


The second article is entitled The Greatest Generation and its legacy …. It’s written by another Baby Boomer. For me, the most relevant part of this was the author’s following recollection of what life was like for his Greatest Generation parents:

“I am blessed to be the son of two wonderful and amazing people. Both my parents were born prior to the Great Depression and their childhood was shaped by the devastation of that era. They grew up with little (in comparison to me or to my children). They worked from early youth with family chores and to make a buck here and there. They endured adversity and want only to find the world at war in their young adulthood. They and their families worked and served at home and abroad to secure victory against the Nazis. Their married life was shaped by Korea and the Cold War. My father started his own business and poured his heart and soul and countless hours of effort and energy to make a living and to make a life for his family. My mother worked in the business and kept the house and served as primary parent on site. In addition to all of this, both were extremely active in the community — the Town Board, the volunteer Fire Department, the Women’s Club, Scouts, etc… Their legacy was one of sacrifice and service.”

“Their legacy was one of sacrifice and service.” That really offers a great summary of what I’m attempting to address here. I’m not advocating “rewinding the clock” and having every aspect of today’s life returned to the way it was “back in the day”. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to see us returned to a time of the world being at war nor of a world-wide great depression. Likewise, I’m not advocating reverting to a society where the men go work at their jobs, the women work at home and those who don’t look like us live in another part of town. But, I do believe that reacquiring many of the Greatest Generation’s values and applying them to today’s circumstances can make huge improvements to life in America today. Those values that, so unlike today, meant that the average Joe or Jane lived their lives with a true other-oriented sense of community, rather than just being focused on “What’s in it for me?” The difference (and I think superiority) of those once-common values jump off the page when you read the quotes above. A common theme of Jim Martin’s comments and those of 80-year-old Manny is a phrase I was taught when I was growing up … “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” When’s the last time you saw that attitude being taken in dealing with challenges facing our community today? And, underscoring all of this was the comment from 91-year-old Larry, when he said, “And once in a while at the movies, they would have Saturday matinees for kids, for ten cents. And after the movie if we had another nickel we’d stop at a place that had i ce cream and popcorn and we’d get that. And boy, we really had a Saturday afternoon.” When is the last time you saw kids come back from a movie at the Cineplex, revved up on candy at $15 a box, sighing contentedly and saying “Boy, we really had a Saturday afternoon”?! Our abundance is exponential compared to what those who came before us had while our appreciation for how richly blessed we are is microscopic compared to the gratefulness of Larry and his contemporaries.

I intend for this to be Part One of a series of articles on this topic. In the coming weeks, I plan to explore how reacquiring the once-common values of the Greatest Generation can be beneficial in applying them to our present-day challenges. I see this as a search for how repairing our social fabric in this way might offer solutions to a broad range of issues. Of course, I welcome your comments on each of the topics, to add to the discussion. Likewise, if there are topics you see as being relevant here that I fail to take up, please expand the conversation by sharing your views on these too.


Filed under America’s founding ideals, Baby Boomers, community, greatness

6 Responses to Securing The Legacy Of The Greatest Generation

  1. Al

    The Greatest Generation of our time had a lot more knowledge of what it took to sacrifice for their nation (many warriors and their families had relatives who fought on both sides in the American Civil War.) Many of these families didn’t have the resources to put their children through college (mine did not).

    After the rampant graft and corruption era of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Generation experienced what immoral lifestyles yielded and they eventually rejected those immoral works of society after WWI and overthrew leaders of the 1920’s corrupt lifestyle.

    Grandparents like mine knew the hardships of relocation by horse and wagon from Missouri and Virginia after they settled in two new states of the Pacific Northwest, Washington & Oregon. Both grandfathers were building contractors and both eventually served as local law enforcement officers in Washington State. Their sons and daughters were home-grown patriots who believed in one Creator and One Nation Under God.

    The United Nations was created by Woodrow Wilson and the United States became the “world’s rescuer” after WWI and WWII. My Democrat-voting parents did not speak kindly of Woodrow Wilson nor his visions of a one-world governing authority. My parents’ observations about Progressives and their observations about globalist politics’ influence in America seems to be coming to full fruition in our time. Sad, but true.

    Our parents, who suffered through the Great Depression shortages and unemployment, gave many of us opportunities that past generations could only dream of in their time. How have we used those blessings? The state that America has evolved to today has very little to do with tools and technology (although they are spin politics enablers.) It has everything to do with political greed for power, undisciplined spending of limited national resources, and corrupt officials who seek total control of the population they supposedly represent. These eventual central government worldly corruptions are as old as the history of man. The Great Generation fought against worldwide predators who were prideful global tyrants, and EVIL.

    All great nations eventually turn away from God and begin to fall apart due to internal moral decay. They eventually allow unchecked immigration of enemies to their way of life, a way of life that gave their society great strength and justice by basing their legal system on God’s rules. Mankind repeats the same human relationship and governing mistakes over and over again.

    Maybe it’s time to read the Old Testament again and see the cycle described each time mankind fell from God’s grace by trying to rule the earth without praying for wisdom and God’s Will. Pray for God to send America a Judge to lead us out of our moral decay.

    Write your Congressmen and tell them we must not support nations that persecute and kill Christians and other peaceful religions in the name of their religion and governing policies. Pray for your family and focus on making a difference in your community by learning about UN Agenda 21. Seek your mission in God’s will and talk about the whole Bible with your friends and relatives, not just the “feel good” verses that address subject matter that may not fit the times. Jesus cared enough to confront, can you?

    Please pray daily for our military personnel (especially those of the “Great Generation”) who are being mistreated by the VA Administration’s failing health “services” system. Many disabled vets and their dependents are suffering needlessly because they have no finances left to pay for medical services that some illegal aliens now get through current Federal & State Government welfare support programs. Mature veterans who served their country honorably and many returning disabled military personnel need your voices to be heard and your active support now (prayer and resources). Thank you for your timely article, Gary.

    • Support

      Thanks, Al. Since this is Part One of a series, I planned to have my next post be Part Two. Now, I’ll have to write Part Three, with your comment being Part Two 😉

      • Al

        I did not mean to hijack your article, Gary. In the future I will try to keep my comments to one paragraph. Your article’s topic obviously struck a nerve in me about how some of these special patriots are being mistreated and ignored by some corrupt VA medical center managers and many WDC politicians. Numerous influential Congress members (both parties) and Administration bureaucrats promised veterans reasonable medical support and they are falling far short of their promises. Tricare initiation was considered a failure by many military personnel (officers included), and Obamacare will just make medical services even harder to access for everybody. Best regards always.

      • Support

        Al, I didn’t see it as you “hijacking” my article and I wasn’t being sarcastic. I truly appreciated all you put into adding to the discussion.

    • BTW, Al, I also meant to say that the points you make are excellent illustrations of why I started Here I Raise My Ebenezer. It’s not a coincidence that the Ebenezer I point to, as indicated by the header and background photos, is the Washington Monument.

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