I decided to depart from my usual articles to ponder about the state of America as it appears today, on the brink of a possible economic disaster and wonder how it is we got ourselves into this mess. Nearly seventy years ago this country found itself in another crisis when the Imperial Navy of Japan struck a blow to our Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor sinking and damaging many of our finest battleships but in the process sending the entire populace into a furor that would not be quenched with anything less than total victory. At the same time Adolph Hitler declared war from Germany, and the United States formally joined World War II.
I have known many great veterans in my life and most took part in World War II. Walt Coon, my grandmother’s second husband, and just as dear to me as any blood relative carried a BAR in Europe and jumped into the war in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 with so many other brave men of the 82nd Airborne Division. He survived the war, unlike so many of his friends who are buried so far away.
My grandfather Joseph Taylor who was a radarman on board the LST 614 which was the flagship of its flotilla and took part in so many landings on Japanese held islands, and was unsuccessfully bombed and strafed by kamikaze aircraft. Through all of that the proudest moment for many of the crew was seeing their ship on the cover of Life magazine when General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore at Luzon in 1945.
I remember having many chats with Harry Hadley a longtime member of the hunting club I belonged to. Harry was in the navy in 1939 and served all the way until the end of the war. His favorite ship that he served on was the Fletcher class destroyer the USS O’Bannon, which during the night battles off of Guadalcanal went toe to toe in a slugfest with the Japanese battleship Hiei, its 14-inch guns dwarfing that of the American destroyers. The O’Bannon got so close during the fight that the Japanese battleship could not depress those big main guns. Several other destroyers joined in and pummeled the larger battleship. The Hiei never made it home again after coming into contact with the might of the American airpower in the Pacific the next day.
What made America great was also the effort at home. Scrap drives, war bonds, and rationing, all were done without protest. Those on the home front were just as dedicated to winning the war as our troops.
So where did that America go? We have let the country the greatest generation won for us be thrown away in mountains of oppressive litigation and skyrocketing debt. Until a couple of years ago, no one cared about words like stimulus, filibuster, and recession. It was who was on American Idol, who was likely to win the Superbowl and the World Series. When a new and oppressive law came out, we shook our heads but went about our daily lives.
Now we watch as little kids are getting tickets for setting up lemonade stands and those who speak out for their understanding of freedom are called terrorists. Getting on an airplane means getting patted down more thoroughly than if you are arrested or being scanned where nothing is left to the imagination. We see elected officials in both parties on all levels waste millions of dollars and then go on vacation. This is not your grandparents America anymore. I can remember my grandfather selling Christmas trees from his own property trying to make a few extra bucks around the holidays. I can only imagine the permits involved now for doing that.
So the next time you hear someone complaining about not being able to afford the latest I-pod or other useless gadget, gently remind them that there is much more at stake going on in America. Many don’t have jobs or are doing whatever they can to get by, a lot them are elderly and have already done their bid for king and country. I cannot imagine all of the things that they have seen in their lifetime and the perils they faced, only to now have to watch as our elected officials in their shortsightedness piddle away our freedoms and this great country’s future. Those of the greatest generation deserve better.