I was cleaning out my file cabinet this morning and I ran across a letter my Dad wrote to his uncles, who were both like his brothers, in age and relationship, and who both served in WWII and at least one of them went back for more in Korea - maybe both of them, I'm not sure. He wrote it on May 30, 1999. Thought I'd share it.
Dear Paul and Ralph,
I guess I would not have started this letter had not some things come together. Mainly the publication of the book THE GREATEST GENERATION by Tom Brokaw, the observance of Memorial Day by the nation, and the need I have to tell you both that you have always been my heroes. I'm sure I culd not say that face to face without making a fool of myself. My son and I have frequently talked of the selfless, noble self-sacrifice of your generation during World War II, and have lamented the passing of that great large-hearted outlook in defense of your country. It has probably not been said as it should be said yet, but Tom Brokaw does a credible job while we are waiting for perfection.
Both my son and I are in awe of your generation. That something horrible has happened to the American heart and spirit between then and now we both know, but we do not know how to say it. The wonder for both of us is that the people of your generation are not affected by the current one. There remains the same spirit of manners, helpful cooperation, humility and the total lack of pretension as were present when you served.
Among the several blessings I realize regarding my children is that they all three got somehow the gene for analysis and the ability to see, quickly, to the core of a matter, and as a result we talk of the two of you more than you realize. I know you have seen the "media" coverage of Memorial Day and all the hype attendant on such an occasion. I doubt that all that meant much to either of you. Well, this letter is a poor attempt at bringing the hyperbole right down to the most elementary level, in an effort to persuade you, fifty four years after the fact, that, if you both had not risked getting you ass shot off a hundred, a thousand times, we would all likely be speaking Japanese or German now.
So never doubt that, in the extended family, everyone in my age range and younger, whether they say it or not, realize that we all owe you, both of you, a debt that we can never pay by simple thank yous. And it is not strange that the attempt to express what we feel chokes us up so that we feel like fools trying to get out what we feel.
We all know that you are heroes, and you will always be.