Sometimes, I find the passage of time stunning. I know that I've lived almost thirty years (21 days away from that milestone, I am), but it still baffles me sometimes.
Today, we commemorate the passing of Mr. Frank Buckles, the last American doughboy to serve in World War I. I read his obituary this morning while the baby is kicking away in my belly. And all I can think is that someday I'll have to explain to this little one that his or her great-grandpa served in World War II, and for them, THAT war will seem just as far as World War I does to me.
And this baby will certainly see the deaths of the last World War II veterans; given the longevity of the current American citizen, I'd lay good money that the baby will see the deaths of the last Vietnam War veterans, too.
But how do you make these deaths real to them? How do you make them understand, particularly with World War II, that these veterans made such an immense sacrifice for them? How do you explain that their great-grandpa was a naval radio operator on two different oceans--the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as in the Mediterranean? How do you explain that their other great-grandpa flew bombing runs over Italy, and managed to miraculously survive a crash landing of his plane? How do you explain that their great-great-uncle was an army photographer who took all the photos of the men who left Maryland for the great beyond, some never to return? How do you explain that they had myriads of relatives who served in the American army, numerous more great-great uncles and cousins and other family members?
How do you tell them that it's because of these men and many more like them that Jews are still free today? That their grandparents and their mom grew up knowing that they had everything to be thankful for? That they were exceedingly lucky that their relatives had left Europe at the right time?
I can tell them the stories; I can tell them who these people were. They can talk to their grandparents and learn even more. But understanding the impact of their deaths... that's something I'm not sure how to do yet.
I suspect I'll figure all this out as I learn how to be a parent. But it's still some interesting food for thought.
Thank you, Mr. Buckles.