04 July 2008


While jogging across the new Biloxi [Mississippi] Bay Bridge this evening at dusk, with fireworks exploding at eye-level celebrating American freedoms, my mind was also bursting with some mental pyrotechnics concerning our parents of the World War II generation. Running through my mind was Mark Twain's realization that, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be..." Here I'll change his quote to, "But when I got to be 50, I was astonished to learn he (the parents of the Baby Boom generation) was part of what Tom Brokaw rightly labeled the "Greatest Generation." My parents, as possibly were yours, were part of that greatest generation.

Our stories of our parents are about all we have left. I wish I could return Our Town-like for one day and not be nearly unconscious as I was growing up, caring only about my small, little-league-baseball world, and truly see for a while who our parents were and realize their extraordinary worth.

If either of your parents were around the Neapolitan (Italy) area during the war, they probably had fear for their very lives, when bombing lit up the night skies, but also hope for future freedom, as did almost all Italians when Allied Forces were liberating Italy. They might have been nearby for additional pyrotechnics when Mount Vesuvius erupted, in March 1944, as bombers flew past. (I have seen the photos.) Perhaps your dad was in the 88th Division, which first gathered in North Africa, the first draftee division to see combat when it entered the Italian Campaign. Or perhaps he had already fought with the Fifth Army, which saw heavy fighting in North Africa and Sicily before landing on the Tyrrhenian Sea Coast for the slogging up-the-peninsula campaign.

I really have little basis for imagining the horrific circumstances of those crucial and strategic times and places. All I now know is that we owe them--that stoic generation. The least we can do is to remember, as we enjoy the fireworks of freedom that they helped ensure would continue until this very day.

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