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Our Veterans, The Greatest Generation...fading fast.


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The Greatest Generation...fading fast.

A post on the HAMB, and my response...

Folks Of Interest The Greatest Generation...fading fast. - THE H.A.M.B.

It's not just friends and family guys,...... My Dad was a WWII Vet. and I miss him more than words can express...... But this might interest you. Written earlier this year.

From the HAMB, and my response...

In the presence of greatness

It was a sunny spring morning just before Memorial day, I stopped in to the local grocery store to pick up some items, … I paused briefly at the card table set up by the VFW, And said hi to some of the guys I knew selling “Buddy Poppies” We talked a little about who was doing what, who passed away, how things were going at the post….. And how sales were going…..

As we were talking we could see the old man walking across the parking lot with a bag of soda and beer bottles he would collected everyday from the park, and all the garbage cans in town that lined the main street, and take them in for the deposit. One of the guys paused,… he said hey look busy, Here comes “Freddie the freeloader” As he was known in town.

Fred (If that really was his name) was the perfect example of the old Bum,… A stained and frayed kaki jacket that looked three times to big, Dark trousers of indescribable color that hung over his small frame, gathered by a worn out belt. And shoes that looked like he found them while looking for bottles.

As he approached, he gave a big grin exposing a lack of several teeth,.. A sparse growth of beard looking more like a molting bird with patches of feathers gone, as his shaving skills or his eye sight must be failing him. As he got closer, the faint aroma of dirty mildew clothes and old sweat followed.

With a bright and chipper voice he greeted us “Morning fellas !, beautiful day ain’t it !” (one of the guys said under his breath, but loud enough for all to hear, “Well it was” followed by laughter).

Unaffected by the comment or the laughter like he was almost use to it, or was laughing along with the joke, Old Freddie said, “I’ll catch you on the way out for my poppy.”

As Freddie went inside to return his bag of bottles, The conversation turned to him,…. Rude comments, Jokes, talk about what a worthless human being he is,…. “A waist of skin” was one mans comment and another’s comment “He is using up perfectly good oxygen that someone else could do more with”,.. The insults continued and much to my shame, I stood there and laughed along with them, until the conversation drifted off to the next person that wasn’t there, That they want to talk about.

I talked for a while and made my way in to the store, with list in hand. With my small list complete and securely in my cart, I walked past the Bakery department, If you buy a doughnut, there are tables set up for you to have a free coffee. Sounded good to me, so I picked one out and found a seat,….

There was about 3 or 4 other people sitting there as I found a seat,… and I was immediately accepted and made part of the conversation. I just started to sip my coffee, when they seen Freddie walk up to the bakery counter,…. Some negative things were said, And as they were all getting up and gathering there trash to throw away one man said,… well He’s all yours !,… and laughed,… they all got up and left, Leaving My coffee and me with Freddie,…..

Freddie came over toward me, got his cup of coffee, and sat down at the other table, knowing nobody really wanted to sit with him. He was silent for a few moments then blurted out “Yep ! gonna get me one of them poppies on the way out !,.. Do it every year !”.

I kind of got a chuckle out of his abrupt attempt at starting a conversation. I replied,.. Yep ! I will too,… My Dad was a member of the VFW , He was a WWII combat vet, so I like to support them,…. His eyes lit up,.. I don’t know if it was because of what I said,.. or that I was talking to him at all.

He looked at me with his toothless grin and said I’m a WWII Army vet too !,…. Where did your Dad serve ?… I told him the Asiatic-Pacific, He said I served in Europe !

It was almost like he didn’t know what to say next, But he was starved for conversation and human interaction,…. He looked at me briefly, then looked into his cup of coffee… Followed by these words……

“ Yeah,… The very first action I seen was on my 19th Birthday,.. Little did I know some of those guys that were wishing me Happy Birthday and slapping me on my helmet wouldn’t live through that day……. He never looked up,… just stared deeper into the black coffee that he was holding with both hands. Without looking up he said “I was born on June 6th. 1925,…”

A chill went up the back of my neck as I herd him say that date,… Knowing what I might hear next. “I was with the 29th.” He went on to say never lifting his stair from the coffee cup,… “ I was just a kid, too skinny for my fatigues, or gear,.. Before the gate dropped on that LST you could hear the bullets hitting it… When it did drop everything was shaking,. You were just pushing to get out, I hadn’t even noticed that guys were falling into the drink, cause the gate dropped short. I got pushed into the water and started to sink,.. Then he chuckled, but my gear was so big on me I was able to wiggle out of it.

When I came to the surface there was a body floating right in front of me and I held on, At first it scared me, but then I felt some bullets hit the body, When I looked back I seen bodies, in fact there were bodies all around floating,… I worked my way to shore, but I was totally confused. It was like the first time I ever rode a “Roley-Coster” Everything shaking, you don’t know what next, And you have no control….”

I sat silent having a hard time hearing what this frail old man was pouring out. As he never stop staring at his coffee, almost like he was talking to it,… and not me.

He continued “When I got up on the beach I was exhausted, then I felt somebody throwing sand at me !,…. But nobody was throwing sand at me, it was where the bullets were hitting the beach in front of me and the sand was flying in my face…. Can you believe that ? He said. I was on the beach and it never occurred to me that somebody was shooting at me ! He chuckled for a second,….. But then his face lost all expression.

That’s when I realized, I had no gear, nothing but a helmet. I found a rifle and didn’t know what to do,…. They were shooting at me but I was afraid to shoot back,… I felt the concussion of a explosion and the air around me was black for a few seconds,.. That was the first time I heard the yelling and screaming.

About ten feet away from me was a man that was pretty tore up, I seen him and ran over to him,… I could see a bluff where he would be safe about thirty yards in front of us,…. So I grab him and dragged him over to it,…. But by the time I got him there he had been hit again and he was gone. That’s when I seen another guy that was hit, I ran out and got him back there, and then a few more.

That’s when I realized I lost my rifle again, He chuckled for a second,… I lost more rifles that day !…. I ran out to grab another one and got back to the position behind that bluff… As much as I wanted too, I never even had a chance to fire a round that day. But over the next several months I had plenty of opportunity to shoot. Ya know most of those fella’s I drug over to that bluff lived that day, that was a Birthday I’ll never forget.

He broke eye contact with his now cold coffee and looked at me with glassy red bloodshot eyes, I knew what he was holding back inside,.. And thought to myself what a tough son of a gun !

Then he said “They gave me a metal for that day,…” Reaching into his back pocket he pulled out a plastic sandwich bag wrapped up tight, opened it up carefully and pulled out a folded up handkerchief, Laid it on the table and began to unwrap it. As he got toward the center I could see the ribbon that was once bright red, white and blue,… stained, battered, and thread barren,… And beneath it a piece of Bronze in the shape of a star.

I went over to him, shook his hand and thanked him for what he did and for his service to our country,… He almost looked shocked I would shake his hand…. I told him I would stop in again next Friday if he would be there,… His big toothless grin looked quite appealing now,… And I no longer seen a bum,… I could see a young brave man putting it all on the line for Me and the greatest nation on earth…. I would be proud to be counted his friend.

On the way out, I ran across the same men that were there earlier selling Poppies,… and kidding around they smirked and asked “Did you enjoy your visit with Freddie the freeloader ?” …. I looked at them for a second and said,… That Man is ten times the men we are, all put together.

Just goes to show,…. You never know when your in the presence of greatness !

Harms Way, I cried when I read your story. I ride with the Patriot Guard Riders for Veteran's funerals, and we stand a flag line for them at their funeral service, as well as at the Barrancas National Cemetary, it's very hard not to cry when you hear Taps. We recently lost Col Bud Day from Shalimar Florida, a WWII Marine, Korean War Vet, as well as USAF Vietnam POW that was a cell mate with John McCain. These 3 war Vets and others are such heroes, and we are losing them every day.


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A Great Story,

and a great reminder NOT to Pre-Judge the next guy, or the next gal, especially by what somebody else mouths-off...

Pre-Judge means Prejudice -- there are far better ways to occupy our minds

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55Chevy, Thank You for the story. It brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat. Too many of us, myself included, often judge someone on appearance alone, much to my shame. Just the other day was talking to some friends about the subject of the men and women of the greatest generation and the impending loss of the best group on Americans that ever was or ever will be. I will be forever grateful for their sacrifice. I have many time seen an older individual wearing a hat or a bumper sticker on their car stating that they are a WWII vet and I have thought to myself. "I should thank them for their service" But I have been reluctant to do so for some unknown reason. The next time I see someone that I know is a vet, I am going to personally thank them for what they have done for our country. I would like to start on this forum today and say. Thank You to all of you who have served. And a special thanks to the veterans of WWII. You are truly appreciated!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

'55 Chevy, I seldom get on the forum, but being a veteran myself (and also a recipient of the Bronze Star), I can fully relate to your story......

Four years ago, I got out of the American Legion post in my hometown. It was a case where the Korean War veterans were (and still are) very territorial, and due to poor management, I jumped ship before the ship sank.

Two years ago a long time friend of my dad's (and fellow AACA member from my region) talked me into coming back into the American Legion. I really didn't want to come back, but this person who asked me is one of those guys who you can't say no to. He'll give you the shirt off of his back, and he never asks for anything in return, so whenever this person asks you for something, you don't argue with him, you just do it.

So I re-joined the American Legion where this person (Lee Shanks) was, and this post that is based in the town where my dad grew up. Many of my fellow legionaires are people who my father went to school with, so if they didn't know my dad, they knew my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My dad is 73 (got bless him) and he grew up about 10 miles away from where we both live now.

Once I got into this legion post, there was this man in the legion who my dad had known all of his life, and he was a few years younger than my grandfather. This gentleman and my father go back way over 60 years, and when my parents got married, my mom knew this person too. When my father had the gas station, one of his sons worked for my dad, and my father was in the Fire Department with this man as well.

Last year we all got the shock of our life. This man died, and it wasn't until after he had died before anyone in the legion (or my family) knew that this person was a highly decorated Marine who was there when they raised the flag at Iwo Jima. The bottom line is we all had a man whom we had known for all these years who not only served, but was there to witness a historic event. He was right under our nose, he never breathed a word, and after the war, he spent the rest of his life giving back to the community.

On the day of the funeral, the Marines had sent a contingent of Marines to handle the flag presentation to the family. I was Sgt of the guard that day, so before the casket arrived at the gravesite, I had talked to the Marines and I politely told them "You aren't just burying an ordinary Marine today, you are burying a Marine who was at Iwo Jima when they raised the flag." The look on the Marines' faces was priceless. It put a lump in their throat because they realized that that they were paying their respects to someone who was there for a historic event. They all had said that they had buried a lot of Marines, but this funeral was the first (and possibly their last) time in their military careers that they had been given this honor. I'm sure even Herb Oakes will tell you that a Marine takes great pride that the Marines raised the flag at Iwo Jima.

As in the case of your post, it reiterates the fact that you never ignore the quiet old guy in the corner. He might have something to share that you can learn from.

Edited by ex98thdrill (see edit history)
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I believe it was Tom Brokaw, newsman, who labeled them "the greatest generation."

Having grown up in the Depression and fought the largest war in world history, many

people from that era deserve praise.

But, looking more broadly in history, other generations have achieved equally great things:

American colonists who fought for their liberty to establish a new country built on freedom;

the generation that took us from horses and buggies in 1870 to the telephone, phonograph,

motion picture, and powered flight--all in 30 years or so.

"The Greatest Generation" may apply to ALL those of any era who helped achieve advancing progress!

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Guest bofusmosby

Thank you for the great stories. As I type this, I too have a lump in my throat. Than you!

I believe that it was (but I'm not sure about that) Charles Kuralt that coined the phrase of "The Greatest Generation".

For many years, I have been shaking the hands of all Veterans, and at work, offer every one of them a cold Pepsi. It's not much, but I feel that if every one of us were to show our appreciation in even a small way, they would all get the message.

My father was a WWII Veteran, and served as an officer in Pattons 3rd army, seeing action in the ending stages in the "Battle of the Bulge". He never spoke much of the war, I guess that this was his way of handling the horrors he had to endure. He passed in 1987, far too young for my 30 years of age. My father was a forward observer, going behind the enemy lines, and radio'ing the artillery when to fire. He received 2 Bronze stars for his service to our country. My Aunt (my fathers sister) told me that the war changed him, and he was a different person after the war. He became a person who always wanted to be in control of any situation. I feel that this was a direct result of what he had experienced when he served. I am thankful for having a father like him, I just wished he had lived long enough to for me to get a bit older, and tell him this.

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Great Stories.....

My father, too, served in WWII - US Navy - Seabees - 6th Special Battalion, Island-Hopping across the Pacific from 1943 through the duration of the War in the Pacific, establishing Port and Landing Strip Facilities to enable to movement of materials, supplies, fuel, armaments, ammunition, and personnel. Like Jim's father, he rarely spoke of his experiences, but when he did, it was with a touch of sadness - he did what had to be done. He had been in a "protected" job, working in the Todd Shipyards in Bayonne, NJ, and could have stayed, but felt the personal need to serve. Having been married only 19 months, it could not have been easy to leave a good job, a young 22 year-old wife and three month old son (me), and secure existence to head for the unknowns of war in the newly-created Naval Construction Battalion - Seabees. Yet he, and thousands of others did exactly that. How many of us would have the vision, and the courage, and the personal integrity to do that today?

Please take the time to thank a Veteran, and to thank those who currently serve.

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Guest myold88

I've got to chime in also. My father was also served in WW2 as a Marine, 4th Division. He was killed on Iwo Jima attacking airfield #2 on Feb 23, 1945. I never got to know him as I was only 2 years old. The only plus is it kept me out of VietNam as a Sole-Surving-Son.

I thank all our WW2 veterans- I hear hundreds are now dying every day.

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Guest bofusmosby
I hear hundreds are now dying every day.

Unfortunately, it is Thousands a day, not hundreds. If a solder who served were only 17 at wars end, then the minimum age of our WWII vets would be 85.

I met a gentlemen just yesterday that is 96. He told me that because of a physical problem he had, they would not accept him for service, so he spent his war years building bombers for our troops. He told me that he felt guilty no being accepted, so he felt that he had to do something to help our country. This was the mentality of the "Greatest Generation" back then. As a matter of fact, this man at 96 (just shy of 97 by one month) had just gotten off work! He was with his 90 year old wife. Great couple.

Edited by bofusmosby (see edit history)
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Jim is right - he usually is,

Back when we dedicated the Pacific Theater Wing of the National World War II Museum here in New Orleans, the rate was about 1,000/day, and that was back in the 1990s. Considering their ever-advancing age, "THOUSANDS" would be much closer to accurate.

Dad was almost 23 when he went into the Seabees in January of 1943. He would have been 93-1/2 now. We lost him Sept 10th, 2003. Some of his problems were related to the asbestos used in the Todd Shipyard in Bayonne, NJ. His last major discussion was how sad he was to think about facing the next day's 2nd anniversary of 9/11, and comparing that to the December 7, 1941 sneak-attack on Pearl Harbor.

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My papa was also a SeaBee in the big one, as I have discussed with Marty. The first part in Trinidad,protecting the Panama Canal, the last part in the Phillipines. He died in 1965, I was only 15. I tried to follow him into the SeaBees but ended up in the regular Navy for four years during Vietnam.

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My Uncle, still alive at 87, was in the Normandy invasion. He was an engineer onboard a "mother ship" but was supposed to pilot a landing craft onto the beach once their larger ship got close enough to disgorge its 6 landing craft. His ship hit a mine and tore in two before they reached the launch zone. He was injured but not badly. He only accepted his Purple Heart a few years ago. He says of the 6 landing craft launched by their sister ship 4 were totally destroyed before reaching land. An acquaintance of mine was a gunner on a tank and remembered vividly being in Southern England the night before the invasion. He said not one soldier that he saw slept even 5 minutes that night. He eventually had 3 tanks shot our from under him as they drove across France.

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My fathers Famly always served this country. His oldest served in the pacific on lst making every big one . My next uncle was going to fighter pilot school when it ended, my dad served 6 months when they found he couldn't hear well My served in England as a nurse with the returning from D DAY That had to be hard, The next brother served in Korea in some of the worst fighting. My brother served , Him in Germany and I in Vietnam. My fathers father served in the First ww. Kings32

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