...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

 

The Greatest Generation

 

It was early, literally by dawn’s early light, that our cruise ship entered the harbor of New York.  Almost everyone aboard had assembled topside to witness the panorama, including much of the crew. The captain had arranged for a narrator to describe the surroundings and to provide some factual historical information.

 

This was very different than the first time Carol and I entered that harbor.  Then it was 1957 and we were returning from a year and a half of army service in Germany.  We were perhaps a bit too blasé, and much too anxious to get off the Henry J Kaiser oil tanker, which had been converted to serve as a troop ship, to take notice of the passing scene.  We wanted to get discharged, get home and get started on our lives.  And so we did.

 

Now it was different.  Forty-seven years later and certainly in a different phase of life, we stood aboard the Holland American’s MS Prinsendam II and soaked up every single image we could find to look at and/or photograph.  Standing on the deck with the wind in our hair, we saw the Empire State Building without the gorilla; the Flatiron Building; the relatively new Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island; the silhouette of the Brooklyn Bridge without the Bee Gees in the background; the empty space that once was the site of the twin towers of the World Trade Center; the Intrepid, a WW II aircraft carrier moored alongside the Queen Mary 2, looking for all the world like a sardine next to a whale.  But most important of all - there stood the Statue Of Liberty, now partially open to the public, and Ellis Island where so many immigrants entered the USA. It is now a museum. Perhaps my grandparents and yours entered this country at this very place.

 

Many of us felt an unashamed and unexpected surge of pride and patriotism as a recording played “America The Beautiful” as we sailed slowly past Lady Liberty.

 

I thought of all this as I watched the World War II Memorial Dedication Ceremony.  Once again I felt an overwhelming sense of country and more than just a little bit of gratitude to this “Greatest Generation” who made it possible for our peaceful transatlantic journey to Europe and then an independent trip to Amsterdam.

 

Tears welled in my eyes as I looked at the wizened faces, and often trembling hands of those who fought the Greatest War ever and for those who did not return.  They gave the greatest sacrifice.  I was and am a grateful recipient.

 

Too young for the war, I had uncles and cousins who served.  Some are still alive; some have died.  I saw them along with along with hundreds of other faces on my TV screen.  I felt that same uncontrollable feeling of patriotism and pride.

 

How many, I wondered, of today’s generation have any knowledge of what Memorial Day means?  How many understand the significance of the new World War II Memorial on the prestigious National Mall fittingly situated between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial?  It is seven and half acres of tribute to 16 million men and women who served in uniform during World War II.  More than 400,000 Americans perished on battlefields around the world to preserve and guarantee our many freedoms.

 

May God bless them and God bless America. 

 

...And that's my opinion.

 

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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