In praise of the greatest generation

This week I was writing a greeting message for a dinner celebrating World War Two veterans.  As I wrote, I began to realize how seemingly small and entirely achievable most of the obstacles we face actually are.    When compared against the herculean task and unknown fate of the brave Canadians who left home to fight in Europe and later Asia, the day to day hindrances many of us face and even many of our bigger political or societal concerns in are put squarely into focus for what they really are. 

This spring we are marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.  It goes without saying that the contribution and sacrifice of our veterans must not be forgotten, but it seems this anniversary is not ringing out as loudly as it could or should here in Canada.  Compare that to the scenes we saw recently as elderly WWII veterans were greeted as heroes in Holland, a full 70 years after liberating that country in the waning days of the war in the European.  Those images should fill Canadians with pride while also reminding us of how much that generation sacrificed let alone how hard they worked on their return. 

Consider this, and many of you will know it by heart:  When these individuals left for the battlefield it was the second time in a few short decades that Canadians had rallied to the aid of our allies.  In addition to that people of that era had barely come through the great depression and were being asked to give more for the greater good.   There were sacrifices at home, abroad, and in the theatre of war, but this generation worked its way past obstacles and prevailed when it mattered the most.  That part of the story alone is as inspirational as they come, but there is more.

Upon returning these soldiers turned their attention to Canada and built our modern economy to such great effect that they became known, and quite rightly so, as the greatest generation.   For many people, that is the way that our World War II veterans must be remembered.   They defined much of what it means to be Canadian both at home and abroad and deserve our unending gratitude.

If we are to truly honour those individuals we must challenge ourselves to match their sacrifice and commitment.  Too many of us are barely concerned with the greater good of our communities.  In many ways we are encouraged to be more aware of the plight of celebrities than we are of our own circumstance or that of our neighbours. If that is to change it will be done with a concentrated effort and we should look no further than the greatest generation for inspiration and proof that anything is possible.

Decoration Day is upon us and it is a good opportunity for us to prove to Veterans that we actually believe their contribution should be celebrated beyond the confines of Remembrance Day.  I encourage you to contact your local Legion to see if you can attend a ceremony near you so that our veterans will understand how widespread and universal the appreciation for their hard work and sacrifice actually is.