I wrote this introduction at the time: "As free citizens, one of our most important responsibilities is to know history. The plain truth is: we are in debt to those who have come before us.
Our current blessings have not sprung from the earth like a weed. They were planted, cultivated; toil, tears, blood and sweat nourished their soil. Being human, mistakes were made, yet being human, these were attended to, and the harvest was resumed.
We now live with the bounty of that harvest, and in our vanity and ingratitude we pretend that these treasures have always been a natural part of our existence, so natural indeed that we need do nothing for them to stand, unattended.
Yet the wind carries a whispering truth, that touches one soul here and one heart there, nudging us out of our reverie, and makes us not just look, but see, what we have to lose, should we grow to take our responsibilities too lightly."
Remembering: An aging D-Day veteran risks all in order to return to France despite his doctor's warnings that, in his condition, the trip with his wife, daughter and teenage grandson may be too arduous for him to survive:
"I have a heart condition so I may come back feet first," the 86-year-old Leesburg man said this week as he prepared to leave for Europe on Saturday, May 23. "But I told my doctor, 'It's inevitable. I have to go back.' What can you do? You live day to day."Remembering: Some Illinois high school students are also getting a first-hand view of history, through a classroom project that sees them create video interviews with WWII veterans:
"We go to schools over there [in France], and the little kids ask us: 'What did you do? What did you eat?' " Huebner said. "But over here, the kids say: 'World War II -- huh?' Even many teachers don't know about it."
That's why Huebner's 19-year-old grandson, Jeremy Huebner, plans to join his grandfather on the trip."I love history, and I thought this would be a chance of a lifetime, a life-changing experience," he said. "When he told me he was going back, I couldn't pass it up."
Ollie Prouty, 83, a 1944 graduate of Rock Island High School, described his adventures as a Navy signalman aboard the USS Asheville as the patrol frigate hunted German submarines in the North Atlantic.Remembering: The charity organization Honor Flight Chicago brings 79 WWII veterans to see the National World War II Memorial, in Washington DC. Time is running out for individual acts of appreciation such as these, as almost 1,000 WWII veterans pass away each and every day.
More than 60 years after he stood on deck and used the red and white flags to communicate with other ships, he demonstrated his memory of the semaphore alphabet.
He described how his ship dodged a German torpedo, the pain of being away from his family and lighter moments such as gin rummy games with fellow sailors and watching movies on the ship’s fantail.
Asked by Tekiah Banks, 17, if he had anything special to bring him good luck, he replied, “I prayed a lot.”
“Instead of reading about history, you get it one-on-one,” Banks said.
“It will give us a better understanding as we read more on the war, and I think it helped me appreciate what our veterans have done for us.”
Jerraco Johnson, 17, noted that Prouty injected humor into his reminiscences.
“It will stick with me much longer than if I had just read about it,” he said.
Kailee Steger, 16, said the project helps personalize the war. “It puts a face on what you read about,” she added.
God Bless all who gave so much for us, may we never forget our responsibility to prove worthy of their sacrifice.