By Kent Rhodes
While choosing a few ears of corn at the local supermarket the other day, I found myself standing next to a neatly dressed man whom I guessed to be in his 90’s. I was right, he was 92. I have the greatest respect for the elderly and struck up a conversation with him as we chose our ears of corn and pulled off the husks. He complained a little about the physical difficulties of old age and as we continued to talk, it came out that he was on board a Coast Guard cutter in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
I asked if he had written down his story and he told me that he had and that it was actually on a CD available at his retirement community.
After bidding each other good day, it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be long before there would not be anyone around who was at Pearl Harbor on that day. In fact, it won’t be long before there is no one left who will remember the whole WWII experience!
This was our last great “defensive” war and it united the country like nothing before or since. Sacrifices were made, the lives of husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers were lost and many were left behind to grieve. There are still those among us who remember. But not for long.
We can always read about it in books, but the personal witnesses will not be here, just like my new friend at the grocery store.
Where will we gain our perspective of freedom when those who fought for it and lived through it are gone? Even now, there are many around us, and some in high positions of leadership, who seem to have lost this perspective.
My greatest concern about this country of ours, the good old USA, is that our young people will not remember the past. And when I say “young people” I include those between the ages of 1 and 50.
Our nation has a rich and historic past. Our country was bathed in blood during the revolutionary war, lost many of her sons and daughters during the civil war, many more in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and now in various places in the Middle East. All of this has taken place to preserve our freedom and the freedom of others so that we and our friends can continue living the American dream of making our own decisions and living with the consequences.
But will we be strong enough to continue the battle for freedom? How will we remember the lessons of the past? It has become ever more challenging to put it into perspective because even though we currently have soldiers fighting overseas, we can’t see the enemy as clearly as our parents and grandparents did. They knew who they were fighting. Our current enemies are more insidious, they are cowardly terrorists both at home and abroad. They fly airplanes into buildings, kidnap, use innocent people as human shields, and set bombs to go off that kill and wound men, women and children.
Sadly, there are people in leadership positions in our own government who should have this perspective, but do not. They do not remember the past or they choose to forget it, thinking that we are a new generation, a new civilization that is free from the evils that haunted our past.
The world may have a different playing field and the nature of war may be different, but those who would destroy our liberty and way of life have not changed. They are out there. There are still those in this world who seek for power and will spill the blood of innocents to achieve it. The names and tactics have changed, but despotism lives on.
The bottom line? Read your history. Elect good men and women who know the past. And while you still have time, go shuck some corn with a vet.
Today I shucked corn with a Pearl Harbor survivor.
(Reprinted yearly at this time of year)