A Tribute to the Legacies in My Parents’ Generation

I’m an adult child with aging parents, and all my life I’ve looked around with awe, observing what people my parents’ age and older have left for their families and their world.

Bridges, highways, businesses, savings accounts, good schools, paid off mortgages, parks, protective regulations, Medicare, social security, you name it. Even foreign aid to build up countries that had been our enemies during World War II.

The generations that preceded us, and especially the greatest generation, had a finely tuned respect for public service. Civics was important to them, and they understood how building a government, whether national or local, encouraged participation and helped others. Did I mention a love of education?

They also believed in paying their way with taxes — none of this lowering taxes and increasing debt and not paying for wars. I’ve lost track of the number of times my parents and grandparents told my brother and me that  “…taxes are a privilege in a democratic society…  for all of us, not just our family.” These were not affluent people talking.

We adult children and those who have followed us have mistreated and trivialized the gifts that were given to us.

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Aging Parents, the Greatest Generation, Religious Freedom and Mosques

Uncle Sherman’s B-24 Crew

Periodically a national issue becomes so significant that our elders can address it best — and I mean the elder-elders — the people, now in their 80s and 90s — who fought to stop Hitler and the Holocaust. Elder-elders know what can happen when you demonize a religion, the way some people are demonizing Islam today.

I hope our these elders, those still living, can raise their voices to say, “Stop!” and go on to give a collective history lesson to younger generation, reminding us that the United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom for everyone. Oh, and they can tell people to stop throwing around the word Nazi. The elder-elders have seen — up close and personal — how the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions during World War II.

Called “the greatest generation,” these senior elders put themselves in grave danger and saw countless friends and family members die, all in a quest to stop Hitler, stop the murder of Jews, and basically save the world. Those who did not fight found other ways to help.

As a child, I grew up hearing stories about the war and the evils of Hitler. I knew people with physical war injuries and men who were so emotionally injured that they could never live a normal life again. I also knew immigrant Americans with tattoos on their arms. The older generation in my life, today’s elder-elders, taught me that no matter how evil a few people might be, you don’t denigrate the group, and if you don’t understand a religion, show respect and try to get to know the people.

Which brings me to Uncle Sherman, a B-24 tail gunner in World War II and a member of the “greatest generation.”

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