I believe the 1,000 people of the WWII generation who leave us everyday wove this nation’s resplendent tapestry and social fabric that unhappily becomes more threadbare with each member’s passing.
Those that remain with us are the remnant. Those who have departed, and those present have woven their personal threads knitted by the Great Depression, the sacrifice of war and their marvelous contributions, that have served as the rallying point, the guidon, for so many that followed.
In 1977, as a young Captain in the U.S. Army in Europe, I had the occasion to visit the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy from which you have a compelling view of Omaha Beach. My experience during this sojourn was not unlike that expressed by Tom Brokaw in his book The Greatest Generation when he stood on the same hallowed ground and posited…”What I was not prepared for was how this experience would affect me emotionally.”
To this moment the vivid memory of 9,386 white marble headstones, manicured fields of green, a gray haze, and blue skies remain as the appropriate memory and tribute to those who permanently embrace this beautiful scene. As Andy Rooney articulated so adeptly in My War…”Even if you didn’t know anyone who died, the heart knows something the brain does not – and you weep.”
Since that time in 1977 I have thought everyday about those in the WWII generation that knitted the social fabric and help to thread the marvelous cloth of life we all enjoy today in this country. In our time the movie Saving Private Ryan and the HBO series, Band of Brothers have enabled us to gain a better appreciation for those who stuck to their knitting and without complaint or bragging sewed this American cloth of diverse colors. I was fortunate enough to be raised and mentored by those who so eloquently, and with humility, many without formal education, set the example with their true colors connected by the rich experiences of life. I continue to be amazed by those who served, in whatever capacity, and quietly lived their lives without fanfare; and with their sacrificial deeds only becoming known upon their departures, most in an obscure manner, yet quietly whispering – remember me.
Assuredly, 1,000 losses a day diminishes the quality and beauty of our woven tapestry. This remnant has millions of threads, each a story, each a legacy and each a color that should not be allowed to fade.
Before they go I hope those who comprise the remnant will take the time to continue to weave that legacy of pictures and memories – that immense quilt of history that will define the standard for generations.
Every American should give thanks, keep the guidon pointed to the blue sky and visit Colleville-sur – Mer, the beautiful place that attaches us to the remnant. Let’s rendezvous…and endure to follow their colors.