Monday my ninth graders were copying down their latest vocabulary list, and one of the words was "infamous." One boy, as he copied, recited FDR's famous declaration about December 7 -- and, yes, the boy knew what the day was.
Seventy years ago this week, my mother sat in her high school class and heard their principal announce over the PA system that the US was going to war against Japan. She can't recall what she was doing 20 years later when JFK was shot, but the moment of that announcement about what we now call World War II is burned forever in her mind. By the time she graduated from high school, only two boys were left to walk with the class; the others had been snatched up as soon as they turned 18 and shipped off to basic training, not even being allowed to finish high school. Two of her classmates lied about their ages, dropped out of high school, and joined the army at 16. Both were killed at Iwo Jima before the day they would have graduated if there had been no war.
Dad has no strong memory of Pearl Harbor Day. But he was already in basic training within some 6 months of the event. As he told me Monday evening, the main reason he survived fighting the Japanese in Bouganville and in Manilla (Dad was part of the group that liberated the prisoners in the last Japanese stronghold at the University.) was because he was a farm boy. He shot second best out of 3000 new recruits and -- thanks to hours shoveling manure -- he could dig a foxhole mighty fast.
And thanks to Dad and lots of his buddies, that ninth-grade boy in my class is free to learn about infamy and many other things -- even Japanese, if he chooses -- in freedom.
My parents' generation truly was "the greatest generation."
Dad plans to put on his WWII vet baseball cap and walk down the street today -- because he still can.
Know a WWII Allied vet? Give him a hug today. The world's a better place because of what he risked.