The Passing of a Generation

Seventy-seven years ago today Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and the United States entered World War II. Since the war there have been memorial services on this day all over the country. Most significantly there have been services at the U.S.S. Arizona memorial. Arizona was destroyed in the attack with a huge loss of life. For the first time this year, this ceremony will not have an Arizona survivor present. There are a few Pearl Harbor veterans still alive, but the youngest of them would be in his mid-90’s. The World War II veterans – that rightly called Greatest Generation – are almost gone.

Pearl Harbor: three stricken U.S. battleships. Left to right: U.S.S. West Virginia, severely damaged; U.S.S. Tennessee, damaged; and U.S.S. Arizona, sunk, December 7, 1941

This week’s activities relating to the death of President Bush were a vivid reminder of that generation. Politics aside, George H.W. Bush was an American icon. Think about it:  Here is a man born into true privilege. He finishes high school – from an elite private school – and immediately goes into the Navy.  He ends up being the youngest naval aviator. He could have almost certainly postponed his service or ended up with some safe position during the war.  Instead he ended up in one of the most dangerous jobs there was.  Just training to be a pilot and being one was dangerous and being one in combat was very dangerous – as young Lieutenant (J.G.) Bush experienced when he was shot down. President Bush’s valiant service in the war was not an exception.  Literally, there were hundreds of thousands like him who did their duty – and many of them did not come home.


This is a good week to remember that generation. All of us owe them a debt that cannot really even be measured, let alone repaid.

Image by Daniel Foster

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