Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Pennant races are smouldering in Major League Baseball. The NFL season is in full swing and captivating a sports-loving land. College football dominates in certain sectors.

Sports are wonderful, a blessed gift presented to our nation by people of vision as part of the freedom we enjoy. But this blog will venture from our fantasy world where the worst that can happen is your team loses a game, or some athlete foolishly thinks he can make life better by taking performance-enhancing drugs.

I have eschewed the pennant races, the SportsCenters, the inane drone of sports talk on the radio this week to focus my attention on something far more important. I have been watching one of television's greatest events courtesy of PBS, Ken Burns' World War II documentary, "The War."

Everybody needs to watch "The War," at least some of it. Most of all, the young people who take their freedom for granted as they write and read this blog and so many others like it, must watch to get a sense of what life was like when madmen in Germany and Japan decided they would stop at nothing to try and conquer the world.

Imagine, you, a 19-year-old enjoying the fruits of your forefathers' sacrifices, seeing what they saw and having to do what they did. Imagine rushing out of a transport onto a beach under the fire of Nazi artillery and watching the guy you were playing cards with last week get his head blown off.

Imagine hacking through a thick jungle on a teeming tropical island, mosquitoes as thick as humid air on a hot summer day. Suddenly, you come face to face with a fanatic Japanese soldier who can only think of severing your head from your body.

Imagine getting captured by the Japanese and considered a coward for not fighting to the death. You must bow and bow deep to your captor, or he will sink his bayonet into your thigh. At any given moment and for no reason at all, he slams the stock of his rifle into the side of your head. Imagine actually getting hit so many times that it becomes routine.

And you, the 15-year-old wise guy who thinks it cool to disrespect your parents and grandparents for the sake of impressing your friends. Imagine drifting around in your blogosphere when the doorbell rings. A sober man in military garb stands there with that dreaded telegram. Your mother sinks to her knees sobbing in agony. Your father, whom you've never seen shed a tear, weeps uncontrollably. Your older brother has been killed in action.

Can't happen here? Can't happen now? Perhaps it can't, but these are real scenes that happened right here in your town from 1941-45 while some of the grandparents that maybe you've never met fought tyranny so you could log on to You Tube.

Why dredge up the unhappiness of the past? Did you ever consider that the old man who lives down the road may have witnessed one of those scenes I've described. Maybe he waved goodbye to his parents and bravely went to war. Maybe you should thank him for sacrificing three years of his life so you could be free.

My father was one of those men. He was listening to New York Giants football (remember, there was no TV then) when the broadcast was interrupted with the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, my father, 24 at the time, went off to war.

I was one of the lucky ones. My dad came back. I, and then my sister, soon became products of his love. I got to sit on his knee and listen to his stories about his days in the bombed-out cities of Normandy and how he was in Ansbach, Germany, when the war in Europe came to an end.

Dad died in 2005. Oh how I wish I could have watched "The War" with him. I have so many questions and death has silenced his answers. Chances are your dad didn't have to go to war. Thankfully, my son's dad didn't. But I believe it your responsibility as an happy-go-lucky American kid to understand what happened.

Watch the documentary. When you go to bed, before you fall off to sleep in the darkness of your room, consider where you'd be if Hitler or Tojo had won the war. There would be no blogging. There would be no hip-hop. Hanging out at the mall would not be an option. Your father's eye that you may have been the twinkle in could have instead been glazed over in the corpse of a man staved to death in a concentration camp.

Listen to the stories of the brave men, now ravaged by age, who made it possible for you to enjoy the finer things in life. Think of them next Memorial Day. Think of them on Veterans Day. Think of them the next time you shift around and daydream when the National Anthem is played before a basketball game this winter. Give them an occasional moment of your time. It's the least you can do.

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