Friday, February 5, 2010

The Greatest Generation

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

I felt a little of my Dad’s pain – pain he had carried in his heart most of his adult life. I had always tried to understand it, but recently a pang in my soul echoed his.

We walked through the Greatest Generation sculpture park on the San Diego waterfront several times during a recent visit. The displays are large in size and in tribute to the men who fought WWII and the women who supported them. One can’t help but be overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the sacrifice and service.

But something always gnaws at my soul when I observe monuments to the Great War. Perhaps it is because I am of the generation that protested an arguably senseless war in Viet Nam and sang songs like “War…uuhh….what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” I disdain war and chafe under its ever presence in our world.

Then we had a conversation with some friends over dinner. The topic turned to what our dads did during WWII and stories were shared about heroic service as warplane pilots, Navy Seals and on-the-ground combat soldiers in Europe. In the midst of the lively and somewhat boastful conversation, I felt it: the nagging sense of seeming worthlessness. Dad must have felt it when his brothers came home from war with medals and shrapnel and stories. He must have felt it when he buried his friend – a soldier killed in battle. He must have felt it when he fell into bed after 16 hours of baling hay and feeding livestock.

My dinner friends stared at me blankly when I said, “Well, my Dad fought the enemy from Wheatridge, Colorado. He had a farm-deferment. His father needed him at home to keep the farm running. He was the youngest, so had to do it.” And then, I added, as if it would give some measure of clout and significance, “I saw the letter from President Roosevelt commending him.”

While the world was at war, my dad stayed behind to be sure there was food and meat for his own countrymen. Perhaps he felt he was somehow less significant. But to me, he is a hero. And for those who needed bread, he gave his all.

I will always be proud of him and of those who serve their families, communities and world – on the farm.

(Photo by D-32, shared via Flickr)

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