44 OLD MEN
Tony Blankley has an excellent piece in today’s Washington Times. Its thesis is that we need to expand the size of the armed forces to alleviate the strain of the heavy operations tempo. What’s particularly interesting about the column, though, is the backdrop:
This week it was announced that of the 4.7 million American veterans of World War I, only 44 are still alive. For many of us, there is deep poignancy in that statistical realization that we are losing direct human contact with that great event and those fine men. The cycle is reaching its completion; history is replacing memory. It is one more reminder that inevitably,our breathing lives must pass away, but what we do while here may live on for the benefit (or detriment) of our future countrymen.
Years may pass when our decisions and actions may seem not to matter to history–and then, suddenly, something big and terrible happens, such as September 11, and honest people are forced to admit that we are making our decisions and taking our actions, not just for our petty selves, but for millions of others and for the fate of mankind itself.
Several decades from now, when our children’s generation is all dust, save 44 old men, will their grandchildren think as kindly on us as we do on those surviving 44 Doughboys (and their millions of comrades) who left us a richer clay from which to be born?
A good question indeed. To some degree, I’d challenge the premise: How many folks think of the Doughboys at all, fondly or otherwise? Do many Americans think of WWI at all? Or even know why we fought there?