Many Greatest Generations on Veterans Day

Four generations of American heroes recalled in Veterans Day observations.

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The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week discusses how boomers are honoring four generations of veterans. “Members of our generation served in Vietnam and the Gulf War,” a Boomerater member stated. “Our children have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of us have parents and grandparents who served in Korea or in World War I and World War II. Nearly all our lives have been touched by the commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. I am interested to know other boomers’ memories and what they are doing to honor our veterans.” Boomerater members shared their thoughts:

Growing up in a patriotic home. I'm a baby boomer, so I grew up in the long shadow of World War II. It was a patriotic and hopeful time in the years following this great Allied victory. Both my parents fought overseas as did four of my uncles. All returned home safe. As kids, we played with their uniforms and caps and medals and K-rations and whatever else we found in their trunks, which were lined up in my grandmother's garage. I remember when our family gathered around my grandmother's dining room table in Shawnee, OK: Late night ice-clinking, cigarette smoke run amok, with sounds of crickets and curtains flapping in the hot summer breeze. Occasionally, there was talk about those "old" Army days, especially when my older cousins were home and considering entering the Korean War. We were all so patriotic, and though I don't remember exactly what was said, I am sure my cousins fought in Korea because their uncles and aunt came home from Europe steadfast in their support of our country's mission all over the world. The "Greatest Generation" inspires awe. I guess post-war movies are what romanticized World War II for us boomers. John Wayne, Audie Murphy, William Holden, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable -- they all served and then came home and re-enacted the war on screen for those of us who couldn't be there. It is only recently that I wanted to learn of my parents' experiences. My mother, who spent most of her service in England as a 1st Lt. in the Army Nurse Corps, passed away less than a year ago. She was honored with interment at Arlington National Cemetery, maybe the most sacred place on earth. It makes her children very proud. My dad, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, would have been thrilled and shocked to receive his dog tags, which were returned to his family in 2003, protected for 60 years under just 7 inches of soil deep in the forests of the Ardennes, where he remembered losing them during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1943-44. God has truly blessed this country. All over the world we continually find ourselves fighting for and defending the gift of free will, which He gave every human soul. November 11th is the day set aside each year as a time to remember and give thanks to all the troops. I hope you will remember their sacrifices on this Veterans’ Day.

A Navy uniform continues to honor a Pearl Harbor veteran. After both of my parents passed away, it was up to me to close up the family home. With the help of my family we had the garage sale, donated to charities, gave away some items and kept the rest. I couldn’t bear to give away my dad’s Navy uniforms, yet it seemed silly to keep them. My dad was a character, a larger than life, funny guy with a beautiful Irish tenor voice. My daughter, like her Poppy, loved the theater, and spent most of her high school days on or behind the stage. That was the perfect solution: His uniforms belonged in the costume department of her high school to be filled with young energetic lives. When I donated the uniforms I also gave the school a photo of my dad so the kids would know they were wearing the dress blues of an American hero. My dad would be thrilled to know that his uniforms are still being used and it meant a great deal to my daughter to contribute them in Poppy’s honor.

Forty years after the Vietnam draft lottery. On the 40th anniversary of the draft lottery for the Vietnam War, most of us boomers can still remember how that day and the war changed the lives of so many of our generation. On December 1, 1969, our family gathered around the TV with my brother and his friends who were of draft age. My brother fortunately drew number 266 and never had to serve. While we were lucky, so many others of our community were not. Some were killed, others were missing in action, and others came home to relive the memories and nightmares of witnessing unconscionable horror. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our Vietnam vets who too often were maligned by the country they served. One way of giving back is to donate items to the Vietnam Veterans of America. They will pick up your clothing and household items to sell to local thrift stores. They use the money to fund programs that directly benefit Vietnam veterans. To see what items they accept (nearly everything) and to schedule a pick up go to their website or call 800-882-1316.

Our newest veterans need your help. Our National Guard units returning from deployment in Iraq are finding a whole new world at home. While gone, the American economy declined, resulting in the closing of many businesses. Many of these veterans no longer have jobs and are struggling to pay for basic necessities. The National VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] has programs that help veterans and their families. Please visit its website to discover ways that you can help.

Add your own comments or read other boomer responses about honoring our veterans on Boomerater. Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with comprehensive directories to help you find everything from assisted living to beach vacations. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.