It seems every generation has a war. My father’s was World War II, as part of the “Greatest Generation”. Mine was Vietnam, not nearly as satisfying. Today it’s the war on terror.
We have never been militaristic. We’ve always preferred to be isolationist with a small peacetime armed force. We prefer our wars short and victorious. When they aren’t, things get ugly.
The Cold War required a large military burden and worldwide involvement. That was not normal here. When I first got into the Air Force, I remember an old-timer telling me he once saw a sign on the door of a bar in the Deep South: “No Dogs, N——, or Airmen”. Then came the frustrations of Vietnam. I marched in Nixon’s Inaugural Parade in 1969, with troops in battle dress lining the parade route.
Now we have a higher opinion of the military, although how well we treat our veterans is up for discussion.
But back to the Greatest Generation. I got a chance to visit the Normandy battlefield in 2012. That’s the way history comes alive — stand in the bomb craters, walk on the same sand, climb the same hills. And that’s the way to appreciate Memorial Day.