One of last 2 WWI vets in US dies
I sometimes wish we hadn't switched from "Armistice Day" to "Veterans Day" until the last of these fellows went to stand their long watch. Most of us see World War I with a little bit of a head shake at the naivete of those who thought it would be "the war to end all wars," but for those guys it was the real thing, and I expect the news of the Armistice - with the realization their chances of living to see home again had just ballooned dramatically - was very, very welcome. It seems like a little thing to continue to honor that until they have all passed away, but there are probably good reasons for the change.
I visit a member of my congregation who's in an assisted living center. He started out in the Army as an enlisted man and during World War II was promoted, and he eventually retired from the US Army as a major. He was wounded in action, ("It was my own fault; I was standing there holding a map. They knew who to shoot at."), served in Korea as well as postwar Germany and spent some time learning some things about US nuclear strategy. He was 97 in December and is probably one of the few commanders or officers from that war still living. Most of those still around today were young guys in the early '40s, enlisting when Pearl Harbor was attacked or being drafted later on. They were the grunts or swabbies or dogfaces, depending on the preferred mode of address for your service, and they're moving on as well.
Today they're the crotchety old guys who yell at the kids playing on the lawn or drive 20 MPH in the left lane with the blinker on or stand in the center of the aisle at Wal-Mart with the cart just so, keeping you from getting by. But when they were kids, they faced death, made choices to take human lives, watched their closest friends be hurt or killed and somehow came through it all, some with great bravery and some with less. Their shuffling footsteps are the tread of giants and heros who still walk our earth, though much more slowly.
It doesn't hurt to remember that sometimes.
(H/T Ms. Cornelius)