I’m one of those classified by sociologists as a Baby Boomer. That’s my generation. We’re the ones who grew up reveling in the exploits of our fathers being the heroes of World War Two. My own step-father served as a Marine in the Pacific from 1944-46. I still have his picture taken of him in his “Alphas,” the wool-green uniform with corporal stripes on the sleeve. It’s one of my proudest pictures.
The “Greatest Generation” accomplished more good for the freedom of the world than even they could have known. Three despotic nations, Germany, Italy and Japan, formed an unholy alliance to rule the world. They had the military muscle to make it happen, and to enslave the rest of the free world. In my studies of WWII and the battles fought, I never cease to be amazed at the determination of the American people, and in particular, the American fighting man. The Army and the Marine Corps developed amphibious assault, a technique relatively untested prior to the island campaigns through the Pacific.
In June 1940, the British Army found itself backed against the English Channel near Dunkirk, facing annihilation by a relentless German Army that was giddy in believing they were eliminating their toughest opponent. The temerity of the British saved the day when ordinary citizens caballed together an unlikely flotilla of dinghies, yachts, and anything else that would float, sailing them across the Channel to rescue their beleaguered warriors who would live to fight another day.
As the Free World basked in the glory of freedom from fanatical rulers, a dark cloud emerged on the political horizon. The Soviet Union was rapidly becoming a world power. They controlled the eastern halves of Berlin and Germany. In the years following WWII, the Soviets moved against hapless Eastern European nations, gobbling them up in a fashion reminiscent of the Nazi take-over of the same region only a few years earlier.
Then the jet-age came into its own, allowing folks to cross the Atlantic in record time. Americans were on the move. Tourism became a booming industry. Close on the heels of the jet-age was the race-to-space. There were only two players in this: the USSR and the USA. Coupled with this was the ongoing weapons race. Each nation had a growing number of missiles, many carrying nuclear warheads, aimed at the other’s key national targets.
As a 50’s kid, we soon learned how to take cover in class should we be attacked. At the time, we were living just outside New York City. Even as an adolescent, I knew one of the first places to be targeted would be NYC. Hiding under my desk was not going to change the outcome. We were toast!
Then we came up with the Bomb Shelter. Remember those? I used to wonder what would happen if you owned a bomb shelter. Here you have it well-stocked with fresh water, canned food, and a battery-powered radio when the alarm sounds. You and your family (amazingly) are all home at the same time. You race to the backyard bomb shelter, equipped for the four of you. The hatch is closed and locked, and you begin the wait. Then there’s a frantic rap on the hatch. It’s your neighbor and his family. Won’t you please let them in? Glad we never had to find out!
Here we were a few decades ago worrying about a cataclysmic encounter with another superpower. Today, we smile whimsically when we think of the backyard bomb shelters. The former Soviet Union, though still dangerous, is no longer a major world power.
Let me ask those of you who can remember back to the days when America was crossing philosophical swords with the Soviets. Did you ever think you would see this Communist juggernaut dismantled in your lifetime? How about East Germany free to reunite with West Germany? Who made that happen? We did.
Did you ever think you would see the Russians move toward a democracy? They’re not quite there yet, but they’re moving in the right direction. Did you ever think you would see an American president (Reagan) challenge the “Evil Empire” to “tear down this wall”? Did you ever think you would see an American president (Bush 43) travel to Europe and scold the Russian president (Putin) for not making a genuine effort at the democratization of Russia?
Or how about this: Did you ever think you’d see democracy in Afghanistan, the country that was regarded as the Soviets “Vietnam”? Did you ever think you’d see Iraq become a democracy? How about the Ukraine? Or the Palestinians?
Then today in the news we see that Egypt – that’s right, Egypt – and their president of twenty-four years, Hosni Mubarak, has declared his nation will have free and open democratic elections later this year. Why? Pressure from the streets of the Middle East. Mubarak sees the handwriting on the wall. There has been a significant uprising fomenting in Iran, and now in Lebanon wanting Syria out of their land so they can determine their own destiny. That, my friends, is called democracy. It’s also called Freedom on the March!
Why has this happened? Because America is still the beacon of hope and freedom to the world. We are also the one nation that has the will, the capability, and the fortitude to aggressively oppose world terrorism, and to bring freedom to the oppressed. Nations are yearning for freedom, a rare commodity outside of the United States.
I am so excited to be living during such a time as this in our history!