Tuesday, May 31, 2005

They're Fading Away Fast

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a Memorial Day service in St. Louis Park, the city (first ring 'burb really) that we call home. The event was organized by the local VFW post and included music performed by a community orchestra, speeches, and ceremonial salutes to honor the fallen. State Senator and possible gubernatorial candidate, Steve Kelley was among the politicians who spoke and he delivered a solid, if unspectacular effort, appropriate for the occasion. It was interesting to note that while the politicians managed to keep politics out of the event, a couple of the other speakers strayed over the line in this area.

It has been widely noted that we're rapidly losing the members of the "Greatest Generation" that fought in World War II. With their passing, we're losing their first-hand recollections of the events that changed history. We may be losing the only people who seem to be interested in organizing events like the one we attended yesterday as well.

Because, if my observations are any indication, Social Security's got nuthin' on the VFW when it comes to ticking demographic time bombs. If the VFW had a Doomsday Clock, it'd be at two minutes to midnight. Each and every VFW member who participated in the event, from the rifle squad that fired off a salute to the flag bearers who struggled to retire the colors to the poor bugler who feebly, but valiantly blew his way through "Taps", appeared to be World War II era vets. Some may have been veterans of the Korean War, but I don't believe any were younger than that.

Maybe the VFW post has members who served more recently (or even Vietnam vets) and they just didn't participate. Maybe there is a new guard waiting in the wings to fill the very big shoes of these veterans. But I fear that we may be seeing the last of the breed of men and women who year after year answer the call of duty to remember those who served (and those who serve today). If so, we won't just be losing the members of the Greatest Generation in body, we'll be losing their spirit as well. And that's a loss that will be felt by all the generations that have followed them.

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