It was a simple enough question that any reasonable person might ask, let alone my 10 year old son. It was June 6th, the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and my son was curious why many in my local area or even family are not talking about the courage and bravery of the many who gave their lives for the noble cause of freedom in Normandy, France not so long ago. My answer was simply, “Well Mark, many from our generation have lost touch with this legacy and many of these heroes are not around to share their stories anymore.” “Yeah, but dad, these are the greatest generation of Americans,” he said in reply. “I know Mark. It’s sad that there are so few who see what you see and believe what you believe.”
Meanwhile, in Normandy, France, there was a commemorative event taking place, which brought many of the surviving D-Day veterans from Canada, Britain, France and the United States, including President Donald Trump and the First Lady. Yes, internationally there was a great gathering and commemoration of the men who sacrificed so much. I saw 1-2 great articles posted about D-Day and the faith of General Dwight Eisenhower. Our nation did pay tribute, but the spirit of my son’s question, was not that the world didn’t recognize these pivotal events which took place three quarters of a century ago, but that every day people did not seem aware of these important events.
My son, like many boys, is enamored by the stories of our American History, especially battles that took place which helped to secure the freedoms we enjoy as a nation. My son, although plays and has much interest in sports, is more interested in learning about our nation’s history and people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and the Battle of the Alamo. He has a thirst for knowledge of the heroic. We just reviewed, with the help of Wikipedia, the data from the largest naval defeat in the history of the world, the Battle of LePanto. He wants to know about these real stories and the real men who fought courageously and bravely for something greater than themselves and he wonders simply enough why others don’t find this as important as he does.
I guess our lives as adults just doesn’t have the wonder of a boy discovering a whole other reality to the life which he is exploring as he evolves into a young man. Perhaps many of us adults have researched all we care to know about these histories, or for many, really have found no interest in learning anything about them. Many adults would rather study and review the current standings in the Major Leagues than learn about the Battle of Anzio. Or some men would just prefer to prep themselves for their upcoming drafts so as to check out from their families and live in their own 6 month fantasy world of football. Ouch, I hope that wasn’t too harsh!
Perhaps, this generation’s only link to the past was a grandfather or great grandfather whom they either took no time to know or ask about the significant role they played in our history. It is also possible that Tom Brokaw’s referred “Greatest Generation of Americans” really didn’t want to talk about their experiences from WWII because it was either too painful or they were just too humble. Of the articles I am reading about the War and the men who served, there was a great degree of humility shrouding this group of Americans. If but for this reason alone, this group should be remembered.
I learned recently that the story of George Washington has been largely ignored in school systems across the country. His portrait has disappeared from classroom walls, and history books now have as little as 10 percent of the coverage of Washington that they possessed just 40 years ago. How sad! Our nation was formed on the character of one man and our kids today know little to nothing about him. I gather in 100 years, the youth of America will know little to nothing about the D-Day invasion. My son, in his own youthful wisdom, knows the importance of these events and will do his best to preserve the legacy when he builds his Lego forts, educates his peers and passes this knowledge onto his own children one day. My job as his father is to encourage him to do so, keep inspiring him to learn more about his country’s history and to keep on reflecting and pondering the heroic. One day, I pray my son’s life will also be a reflection of all he perceives as worthy to be remembered and emulated.