And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that this is being written on Memorial Day. Or what some of our elders referred to as Decoration Day.
The “day” used to be May 30, but government threw a bone to unions who wanted a three-day weekend, so now it is the last Monday of May.
I really can’t wax nostalgic for the worst war in the history of the United States, World War II, because there were over 300,000 deaths recorded on the winning side. The secondary, to many, phrase in that sentence is “winning side.” Because that is the last war the U.S. could be said to have “won.” Korea was a tie, yanked from the jaws of a victory. Vietnam was a loss almost any way it is characterized. And the Middle East conflicts may not even be wars in the legal sense, and have not gone well for the nation.
Veterans of WWII, what few there are left, are among those called “the greatest generation.” An article over the weekend described those veterans as possessing stoicism, meaning they were accepting, but in reflection I think that could apply to us civilians of that era as well. I often wish that it was not so, because there were lessons learned as the result of that war, both good and bad.
The “bad” includes the fact that much was asked of those who served in that war, on the battlefield and here at home. But because so much was asked and so many sacrifices were required, many of those survivors were of the mind set that that much should never be required of their children and grandchildren. And so they did not ask for much, and their heirs often did not give as much.
The “good” lies in the fact that that may have been the last time when we Americans were united in purpose. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not universally admired as president, but the nation, on all fronts, backed him in his declaration of war, although historians since have questioned his motivation. We didn’t at the time. It’s too bad “kids today” don’t learn more about those who made sacrifices. Such as the Gold Star Mothers, who lost sons in warfare. And about gas rationing and sugar rationing and meat scarcity. And needing a permit to buy a used tire. And about air raid drills even here in Iowa. About kids on paper drives and mothers saving bacon grease “for the war effort.” And savings stamps for purchase of war bonds.
We’ve lost that feeling of unity. Instead we increasingly have conflicts. Of rich vs. poor, blacks vs. whites, urban vs. rural, conservative vs. liberal, Christian vs. Moslem, etc., etc.
I was seven when WWII started, and 11 when it ended. In other words, of the age of reason throughout. But I learned more about the war from reading and lectures as a member of Air Force ROTC for two years and active duty with the Navy for almost four years. And I was able to overhear conversations among my elders.
And in a desk drawer, I still have the reminder of the air raid drills, when we were required to pull the blackout shades, and the only light allowed was a red bulb the size of a Christmas tree light with a hood that directed light down from a low-placed wall socket.
I think about it and what it meant every time I move that fixture to get at something else.