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The Greatest Generation

Since some surgery two years ago that took most of my vision, I've lived in an Assisted Living Retirement Community. At 55 I barely qualify for living here and I'm the youngest resident. I would have been a Vietnam vet or otherwise, but health problems made the military turn me down. I went around for years with my 4F Draft Card in my wallet while many others were burning theirs and the Flag.

All the others here are older and are members of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation". I've learned why these people have that label.

Many think it's ridiculous thinking of them that way. Sure, they all lived through The Depression and through the greatest unifying factor in this nation's history, WWII. The tag doesn't, as I've experienced here, refer to those events alone.

These people all grew up working for what they got, or at least what we see as working. If they were hungry, they didn't run down to a Fast Foods place on the corner, they fixed a dinner. If the car didn't work, they didn't take it to the neighborhood Service Station, they went out to the garage and found the tools to repair it.

In WWII, our Lend-Lease Program gave hundreds of trucks to the Soviets. They drove them until something went haywire, then abandoned them by the road because they had no knowledge of fixing them. One reason American troops won the war was because they repaired things that were hurt in some way. They fixed a jeep or deuce and a half with a broken axle overnight, and invented those steel 'teeth' for tanks to cut through hedgerows in France because the guys had done repairs on cars or anything else at home almost all their lives.

The ladies at home could make meals out of almost nothing, and learned to make beautiful clothing from flour sacks.

It got to where those things weren't work, they were just doing what needed doing to get something good.

Along the way they learned respect for others, the belongings of others and of themselves, respect for themselves, politeness, honesty, and other ideal things because they worked for them. They weren't given things. Working for something makes it valuable to you.

So today I never have to lock my apartment, even if I leave for a whole day. Many folks here never close their doors, even if they're gone for the day. I've found I often don't have to. These residents all grew up feeling that if something belongs to someone else, they don't desire it.

That's why this is called The Greatest Generation. And unfortunately each year claims some. It would be interesting seeing what these Retirement Homes and their residents are like in fifty years, when today's Instant Gratification Generations are here. I won't be able to experience that, maybe thankfully.

This story was contributed: John Lang, Yakima, WA