This week Norma Jean and I made a quick trip to Sellersburg, Indiana, to attend the funeral of my Uncle, James Key. He was 91. He was a part of what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.”
Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” was a moving tribute filled with inspirational stories of those who served our country during World War II. He wrote about common people. Famous people. Men and Women. Heroes and Heroines. Those who served in uniform and out of uniform.
My Uncle James could have been one of the chapters in Brokaw’s book. He served abroad in the U.S. Army during the War. My cousin, Ryan, told stories of Uncle James narrowly escaping enemy fire.
When the war ended Uncle James came home. Got married. Went to work. Raised a family. And like so many others of that era contributed to the success of our country and shared in “the American dream.” He knew the meaning of commitment. He and my Aunt Earlene were married 71 years.
Growing up I knew many that served in WWII. My Dad was in the Army. My Uncle Oval made it a career. Norma Jean’s Uncle Sheb was actually captured by the Germans and managed to escape. Yet, I never remember anyone bragging about their service, or feeling they had done anything extraordinary. They simply did their duty. Served their country. Lived honorably. And worked to make their lives, and those of their family better.
Today, that generation’s average age is 92. The number of WWII vets has dwindled to about 1 million. And they are dying at the rate of 800 a day. It is estimated by 2036 there will be none left to tell their stories and share their struggles.
I grew up raised by “The Greatest Generation” who believed in honor, practiced integrity, and taught virtue. I was taught that no one owed me anything. But by hard work, dogged determination, and personal responsibility that success could be achieved.
“The Greatest Generation” were generally “God-fearing folks. People went to church. Biblical morals were respected. Righteousness was applauded. And sin was disdained. Men were men. And women were women. And people knew the difference.
But that generation is passing. American is changing. And with it a great deal of the virtue that characterized bygone days. Values are shifting. Morals are questioned. What was once generally recognized as unacceptable or abhorrent behavior is now being accepted and even celebrated.
As I reflect on these changes, I’m reminded, it’s a part of the cycle of life. The wise man observed, “One generation passes away, and another generation comes.” He saw “the evil done under the sun.” The abuse of power. The futility of riches. And the fleeting nature of life.
As we lament the passing of “The Greatest Generation” we must be reminded that they weren’t perfect either! There is a nostalgia that often blinds us to the mistakes and problems of the past. The answer for the ills of our country is not a return to the 1940’s and 1950’s, it is a return to God! To the Word of God. To the Gospel of Christ.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, after surveying the good and bad in life encouraged the younger generation to rejoice in youth, remove sorrow and sin from their lives, and to remember God in the days of their youth. He is saying that life is short. Death is certain. And judgment is coming.
So, to of all of us of every generation, the conclusion is clear and inescapable:
” Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13-14)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman