Did you watch Ken Burns’ documentary “The War” on PBS the other week? Our “greatest generation” is leaving us by the hundreds each day, taking with them treasure-troves of stories that tell us what it was like in the “old days,” and I mean what it was REALLY like to live those old days, not just that fact stuff you read in history books. The documentary relayed the terrible stories of individual men surviving horrifying destruction, and left me with a feeling of intense sadness and disgust at the thought of the huge waste of humanity and human potential. What I loved, though, were the stories of civilian people and how they coped back home. Tears, grief, fear, yet men and women and boys and girls all pitched in to help how ever they could with the war effort. It must have been an amazing time of bonding together not just to comfort each other but to work towards the common goal of ending the War and bringing loved ones back home where they belonged. War is such a shameful disgrace, a last resort when all else fails, but sometimes necessary when nations will not work together to help thwart an evil when it is still small. But, I digress from my family-friendly theme!
We in the U.S. are lucky that geography has kept us far away from the everyday reality of war. Lucky, but it leaves us in danger of forgetting, of not taking war seriously. It’s so easy to turn away from the T.V. or ignore the news articles. Many veterans who never wanted to speak of their experiences are finding it easier to talk about the war in their older age, perhaps because enough time has passed to dull the pain a bit, but perhaps they are seeing in today’s world how important it is to teach the younger generations about the terrible realities of war.
Ask your grandparents or parents of The War generation to tell you some stories of that time. What was it like to hear the announcement of war, what did they think about their country joining the war, what specific things were they afraid of, as civilians did they have to change their lifestyle any… so many questions, so many interesting answers, so much we must not forget.
Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats