Archive for February 2nd, 2009

What Do We Call The NEXT “Greatest Generation?”

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

After I performed my musical “Tribute To The Greatest Generation” this past weekend, one of the Seniors from the audience gently took me to task.

While appreciative of the recognition Tom Brokaw’s book title gave to his group of Americans, he wanted me to remember that many, if not most, of those who served in our armed forces during World War II were draftees, not volunteers. Conversely, every single one of the wounded vets he visits regularly at our local VA hospital chose to potentially put themselves in harm’s way, in order to protect our country. “What should we call them?” he asked.

Heroes is the first word that came to my mind. (Selfless and Role Models came next.)

But – with all respect to the gentleman who posed the question to me – I have decided after much deliberation that “The Greatest Generation” is a title still deserved only by his own peers. And I have three reasons why I feel this way.

1. World War II really was a generation-wide effort. Virtually every American sacrificed comfort and luxuries for the benefit of the war effort. Unlike the conflicts since, this was “everybody’s” victory.

2. The draftees fought just as hard as the volunteers. Not every American in uniform may have chosen to go to war, but – once they finished boot camp – the draftees were indistinguishable from those who signed up December 8th, 1941. They were just as heroic, and just as dedicated to winning as the “gung-ho” crowd. And they deserve credit for that.

3. The “greatest” among us are always the last to see their own greatness. Throughout my life, I have always heard veterans say “I just did my job” or “we all tried to do our part.” Real heroes never seem to know how special they really are.

So I’d like to thank the gentleman who posed the question that started all these deep thoughts. And he’s right that those wonderful individuals who have stepped forward deserve all our admiration and support. But I have concluded that, the very fact that he – like so many others of his age – is so concerned about honoring the next generation of heroes is all the proof I need that Brokaw got it right.

They still are “The Greatest Generation.”