This week I visited a church member in the ICU of a local hospital. Even though he had been through a rough time, he was able to talk with me and in our conversation he referred to his time in combat during World War II. As I talked with him, I was humbled and a little overwhelmed to be the pastor of a man who had given so much for his country. As I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but think of others in the church I serve who are also World War II veterans. In the short time I have been pastor here, we have buried several of these veterans. A number of years back, news anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the World War II generation and he titled it “The Greatest Generation.” I believe Tom Brokaw had it right; this generation is the greatest generation in American history. Please allow me to share why I believe this statement is true.
1) The World War II generation is a generation of deep faith. Not every member of this generation is a born again Christian, but many are. Some came to faith during the war, while others came to Christ later in life, but the reality is that many of this generation came to a deep and abiding Christian faith. Practically every evangelical church in the post World War II decades has been filled with faithful members from this generation.
2) The World War II generation is a generation of hard work & sacrifice. Many of them were children during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and grew up in families working hard just to survive. After the war was over, they came home, got married and began their careers and families. In a very real sense, this generation built the America we know today. They built businesses, communities, churches, etc. Even in their retirement years, the World War II generation has stayed busy. They have worked until they were not physically able to work any more. That is no coincidence. Work is all they have known.
3) The World War II generation is a generation of a healthy patriotism. I have never met a World War II veteran who thought America was perfect. However, each one loves their country. Many of them have seen first hand the results of evil and despotism. They take the phrase “land of the free and the home of the brave” to heart. They came up in a time when the American flag transcended Democrat or Republican – it was a symbol of our whole country and what it stands for. Certainly, we do not worship America, but the Greatest Generation shows us how to love America in a healthy way.
According to the National World War II museum, 16 million Americans served in World War II. Today only about 855,000 remain alive. They are dying at the rate of 492 each day. In Alabama, there are only 12,700 left alive in the entire state. Let’s take the time to thank and honor those members of the Greatest Generation that we know. Unfortunately, we do not have very long to do so.