We should learn from the WWII generation

Published 9:17 am Friday, June 20, 2014

They’ve been called the greatest generation, and I have no doubt they deserve that title.

The men and women who banded together, at home and abroad, during World War II are unmatched in their valor, courage and selflessness.

On Wednesday, more than two dozen local veterans were honored during the annual World War II Honor reception at the Vaughan-Smitherman Building Museum in Selma.

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The event, which is hosted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy Selma Chapter 53, features no guest speakers or historical experts.

One could study World War II for all their life and never comprehend how much was sacrificed by so many during the war.

Wilcox County resident Roy Childers was 17-years-old when he heard that American military servicemen and women were killed in an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Like so many of his generation, Childers signed up for the military shortly after that infamous day.

“It’s hard for people to visualize the attitude of everybody in this country after the Pearl Harbor attack,” Childers said. “It was amazing. And living today, each story we can tell helps illustrate how different it was back then. It seemed like everybody was united in the war effort.”

That mentality made Childers’ generation the greatest. They did what it took to take the next hill, the next island or the next city. And when they came back, they expected little fanfare.

Their modesty defines them.

Geraldine Vaden sat at a center table during Wednesday’s event, listening to others talk about their experiences, both during and after the war.

For the majority of Wednesday’s event, Vaden sat quietly, the beginning of a smile on her face and her hands gently clasped on the table before her.

Her demeanor would never reveal that Vaden had been an Army nurse in Italy and Africa.

Vaden did not share her stories with the audience Wednesday, and she may not ever. She saw the ugliest side of war, full of visions she said still haunt her to this day.

But Vaden said she wasn’t on hand Wednesday to relive those darkest hours. Instead, she was there to surround herself with others who too carried the weight of the world and asked for little in the way of thanks.

“I think it’s great to have something like this, because there aren’t many of us left,” Vaden said. “I love to be here with the other veterans. We’re all in the same boat and we have been through so much.”

We all have much to learn from such an altruistic generation.

There will always be a greater good, both in Selma and across the globe and it’s up to each of us to do our part to improve the world.