This weekend, I had the absolute honor of meeting a WW2 veteran. While this isn’t my first time meeting one, this one in particular, had a profound effect on me as I realized that the time has come when that generation is, unfortunately, dying of old age.
This veteran in particular had me in tears when I heard his story. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division and jumped into Normandy, sipped upon Hitler’s personal wine collection, and came home and had 12 children with the girl who grew up down the street that he fell in love with during the great depression. What really strikes me every time I meet one of the veterans from his generation is how extraordinarily humble they are. I mean he was asking me about my service, and my time in the army, thanking me for my service, this man literally helped free a continent, and save the world. All I ever did was fight a group of 8th-century barbarians and get drunk with my buddies in the barracks.
When he finally started talking about himself all I could do was look upon him with the same awe-inspired reverence and admiration that one looks upon their grandfather with. I mean I was so star-struck it was hard to form cogent sentences. These guys lived unbelievable lives, I mean imagine being an 18-year-old kid growing up in the Great Depression, that never left the state of Nebraska, about to jump into Normandy, they open up the door on the plane and the sky is literally on fire around you, and you still just say f*ck it and jump in. He started getting misty-eyed as he talked about his buddies long gone, he beamed with pride as he talked about his grandchildren’s accomplishments and the life he had built. It just gave me a reminder of how truly unbelievably lucky we all are to be Americans.
In this age of petty political disagreements, narrative above country attitudes, and violence towards one another we can look to our elders. We can look to the example they set, their love of country, love of one another, and indomitable spirit are something we should all strive for. Especially as college students, we live such privileged lives and it is the opinion of this writer that we should all take a moment as we start our weeks to think about that sacrifice and carry on their legacy by always striving to be the kind of American they would be proud of. Cheers gents, let’s get after it this week.