Sunday, May 31, 2009

Looking forward, looking back

In this first week of June, many American's thoughts turn toward the time honored tradition of graduation. Be it high school or college graduations, bright young faces ready themselves for the next step in their lives. Some will go on to further studies while others will get down to the business of finding a business for which they are suited. Either way, for the graduates and for their families, their thoughts are focused in one direction, forward. What will be my major when I get to college? Will I have to get a real hair cut for my job interviews? What color will we paint the kid's rooms now that we have the house to ourselves?

Yes, there will be a look back at photo albums and talking about how you thought this day would never come, especially after freshman algebra, but they made it through. For these young people an uncharted future lay ahead, and with it, infinite possibilities. This is how it should be in America. Even in unsettling times, the future has a newness to it, uncluttered by the realities of, well, reality.

Along with this bright look forward, the first week in June also marks an anniversary that deserves a look back. In fact we owe a great debt to the participants, for they have given us 65 years worth of future to enjoy.

This Saturday morning, June 6, many graduates will wake up early with excitement, try on their caps and gowns, and load into the car with the family and friends to attend graduation ceremonies.

This Saturday, June 6, also marks the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Young men, not much older than this year's graduates, climbed down the cargo netting from their troop ships into the bobbing and pitching Higgins boats heading toward the French coast. Thousands of young men in the early dawn heading to landing areas with names we all know today. Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Sword and Juno Beach, and Pointe Du Hoc. The future they faced was a terrible one. Some would make it through that day, some would not.

I had the privilege to attend the Memorial Day service at our small country cemetery in Esparto. The local VFW chapter commemorated those who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. These men and women traded their futures to ensure we would have one. The majority of the VFW members were from the Viet Nam era, as the ranks of WWII veterans grows thinner every year. A few WWII veterans attended services there; one is a friend of mine from church. I always enjoy talking with Roy, as I do with the few WWII veterans I know. Barney, Smitty, Gus, they are all in their 80s or 90s, and still full of life. I hope I have many more years to enjoy their stories.

So this weekend, as we enjoy the speeches made by valedictorians, local politicians and guests, let us take a backward glance over our shoulder, to a time before most of us were born. Let us remember what they did for us, while we look forward to a future shaped by their great grandchildren.

1 comment:

TetVet68 said...

Remember Pearl Harbor -- Keep America Alert!

America's oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, living his 100th year is former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM), later wartime commissioned Lieutenant John W. Finn, U. S. Navy (Ret.). He is also the last surviving Medal of Honor, "The Day of Infamy", Japanese Attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.

(Now deceased) 'Navy Centenarian Sailor', 103 year old, former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM, Combat Aircrewman), later wartime commissioned Chief Warrant Officer Julio 'Jay' Ereneta, U. S. Navy (Ret.), is a thirty year career veteran of World War One and World War Two. He first flew aircrewman in August 1922; flew rearseat Radioman/Gunner (1920s/1930s) in the tactical air squadrons of the Navy's first aircraft carriers, USS LANGLEY (CV-1) and USS LEXINGTON (CV-2).

Visit my photo album tribute to these veteran shipmates and other Pearl Harbor Survivors:

San Diego, California