Representative of their generation, Lee Fleming Reese
and her husband, Bro. Thomas W. Reese, 32, Valley of San Diego, California,
have shared a lifetime of struggle and accomplishment.
At any season, I am proud of my generation, for we are special. We have been a part of the American scene for nearly three-quarters of a century. We have seen much, done much, and suffered more than others can know.
We were kids during World War I (1914-1918). We did without wheat to feed the hungry people of Europe. We ate cornmeal mush and cornbread. Some of us moved west from one bleak, unprofitable environment to another--always in search of something better.
After much suffering from the stock market crash in 1929, things went from bad to worse. The motto for those Depression years was “make do.” We wore hand-me-down and made-over clothing. We put cardboard into our shoes when the soles wore out. We glued on rubber soles, if we could afford them, from the dime store. Some people in cities walked miles to save the 7¢ streetcar fare, for that money just might buy a pound of hamburger or a few loaves of stale bread. Then, after that 10 years of suffering, and without having one word to say about it, we traded the Great Depression for something worse--WAR!
When Hitler’s troops stormed into Poland in 1939, United States military reserves were called to active duty. Compulsory military service became law, and Americans prepared for our own defense. Thousands of men and women from all skills, trades, and professions prepared to fight.
When on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor without any declaration of war whatsoever, many were killed and wounded, and nearly a whole fleet was destroyed. Those who could, repaired the ships, and men deployed to the vast areas of the Pacific and parts of the Far East. Many thousands more crossed the Atlantic when Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Our generation did its part. Now, let’s see what our successor generations do with that legacy.
For more than a year, we suffered one defeat after another. During the Battle of Coral Sea and at Midway Island, our fighting men changed that, and we began to win.
Americans recaptured Attu and Kisha in the Aleutian Islands chain in western Alaska. Our military men hopscotched across the Pacific, island by island, all the way to Okinawa and at a cost of many thousands dead. In North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Italy, and Germany as well as in other European countries, American and Allied Forces advanced. In the Pacific, we gained a base from which to launch the invasion of Japan.
The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, and the Japanese signed an unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945, on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Finally, the tired and war-weary men came home only to fight again in the Korean Conflict, a joint undertaking by the United Nations, yet a war that for three years cost the United States dearly. In return for the years of military service, the GI Bill of Rights provided veterans’ benefits, enabling many to complete their education, enter professional careers, and buy their first homes.
In time, they reared a generation only to have many of their sons and daughters in the 1960s and 1970s disrupt the nation with destructive lifestyles, drugs, and diseases. Yet my generation prevailed and salvaged most of the country while our children bled and died or were held prisoners in Vietnam.
We are older now. We have seen much of life, death, hunger, and destruction. By contrast, we have witnessed or have been a part of marvelous advancements in medical science, space, food production, and a whole new technological age of fantastic computers. We have enhanced the benefits for all and, in particular, for those too old or too sick to labor.
Furthermore, not many retired simply to loaf. Many thousands upon thousands of us still volunteer our time and monies to benefit others. We look with disdain upon those who refuse to assume the responsibilities that go with benefits.
Yes, I am proud of my generation. We are special. We did without in order to feed others in World War II. We endured 10 long years of the Great Depression and “made do.” We fought on many battlefields to defend freedom. We rescued prisoners of war and relocated displaced persons. In the process, we left almost half a million of our bodies strewn across the war zones of the world. We established world peace, participated in the creation the United Nations, and perpetuated another generation to carry on, we hope, our ideals. We furthered the sciences and brought about many benefits for the sick and aging. Indeed, we did our part. Now, let’s see what our successor generations do with that legacy.