My uncle, Louie, was a member of the Greatest Generation. Born April 3rd, 1921, died January 31st, 2021. He almost made it to a hundred years. To think he was an American soldier who fought in the Pacific Theatre of WWII in the American Army. Three months after the United States dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, uncle Louie was one of the first occupying soldiers to enter the City of Hiroshima.
What did he witness? What did he see? What did he smell? He was one of the few primary sources of a new era, the Atomic Era, and walked through its dust. Did he see the twisted steel, the melted stone, the etched, seared shadows in the pavement as he meandered through the rubble? Were the ashes still hot? Was the Nuclear Winter over?
Yes! Uncle Louie, one of the many who gave so much for the few.
Uncle Louie, did you know you made one of the most extraordinary contributions to Planet Earth, helping to defeat the Fascist-Imperialist- Militaristic-Japanese Empire? Kudos!
Like so many of your generation, you did not boast or talked about what you did, what you saw. Your age lived through the Great Depression, saw the breadlines, soup kitchens, apples for a dime, yet you never complained. Instead, you were always cheerful, kind, and caring. To you, life was delicious, and you lived it well. Everyone who knew you felt your presence. You were a joy, a pleasure, and pleasing to be around. I never heard a harsh word uttered from your lips. I wonder out loud how men such as yourself who witnessed the profound hardships thrust upon them could be so gracious.
Many times, I visited my grandma, your mother. Often you were there and would inquire, “How are your mother and your brothers?” I remember you would always give me silver dollars from Las Vegas, Nevada. You were fond of gambling, traveling, and eating well. Yet, you loved and cared for stray animals, dogs and cats, and took them in. You loved your nation, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren. They were so dear to your heart. I tried to draw from you your war experiences, your story. What was it like marching through Hiroshima? You simply smiled and gave me a humorous anecdote.
I remember speaking with you about taking the honor flight to the Washington, D.C. WWII Memorial. How reluctant you were to take that trip or talk about it. Yet, you were one of the most gregarious persons I knew, and you did not want to go to Washington, DC. In my teaching style and demeanor, I said, “Uncle Louie! It is not for you, but for your grandchildren. It is their legacy.” End of the doubt, you lit up like a lightbulb and said you would go.
His son accompanied him on a flight to Washington, DC. When he returned, all he would talk to me about was his trip. How proud he was to be honored in this way. The Honor Guard Ceremony was patriotic, outstanding, and stunning, and the WWII Memorial filled him with pride. Wow! He lamented on those who never made it home alive. Yes, that is what one would expect from the greatest generation to acknowledge our fallen heroes. Uncle Louie, did I tell you how proud of you I am? I salute you and the Greatest Generation.
So, let’s remember our finest hour and perhaps our most definitive history.