My description of the 1950’s apparently touched a few nerves. Comments and emails pointed out that the 1950’s were not as wonderful as I described. I’m aware of this. I described the decade as I did for a reason. I may have been too subtle for my own good. An explanation of what I intended is in the comments section. //Jim
It’s a beautiful day here in the Alaskan Mastsu.
It’s perfect day for grilling out or just working in the yard or maybe taking nice hike – and I may do all three.
It’s also nearly ten years now since those terrible days of 2001.
A full decade of war and death and sacrifice. For some of our children, the most recent generation and the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war. Think about that. Their grandparents came of age in the 1950s, and if you were white and of the new middleclass, what a wondrous peaceful golden age it was – unless you happened to be one of those who went off to the Forgotten War. Those few years of the 1950s are last truly peaceful decade our country has known. The so-called Greatest Generation will always have that, the 1950’s. That nostalgic oasis in a desert of conflict. Those of us born in the 1960’s, we grew up under the shadow of Vietnam and the tie-dyed nuclear chaos of that decade. Those who came after us lived with the constant churning uncertainty of the collapsing Cold War and one brushfire conflict after another and now the results of 9/11. For all of us born since the start of Vietnam, we will never have such a time as the 1950’s to look back upon. Never. Imagine that.
Sixty years now we’ve been at war in one form or another,
Today there are those who instead of picnicking with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous parts of this world. They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of Pakistan, patrolling the terrible destroyed streets of Iraq, standing the long watch on and below and above the seas, in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the deadly skies over Libya, in cold airless orbit far above the Earth, on local bases in their own states and in places so remote you’ve never even heard of them – and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did. Some of these men and women will not live out today. Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams fled.
And yet, most would have it no other way.
And there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the rehabilitation wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or hiking today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it. Soon too their last battle will be over.
And there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the demons of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battles you have never heard of. Many are already dead, killed in action, only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten ghosts of war and conflict, slowly fading away.
And there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember. They lay entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, and the Somme and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America. They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows. Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered. Here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite. Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.
They, all of them, came when called and did their duty and no one can ask any more of them.
For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.
Remember them, if only for a moment.
Then enjoy your day, because that’s why they do what they do.
Additional thoughts from previous years: