Posted on July 10, 2019
by Steve Janowick
*sailor passionately kisses a nurse in Times Square to celebrate the victory over Japan, Aug. 14, 1945.(Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty Images)
She didn’t notice me watching her. No one or no thing existed at that moment for her. She was completely lost in a television induced reverie. The flickering lights cut through the darkened kitchen and I could see it reflect off the tears running down her aged, roseate cheeks. Her lips formed a slender smile as she gleaned vicarious pleasure watching Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the iconic beach scene from From Here to Eternity.
At that very moment, my grandmother was a teenager during World War II again. The movie was tripping her memory circuits and she was suddenly reliving her past. When the greatest, and most tragic, of all wars consumed the daily lives of every American citizen and when the combatants in that war were esteemed, adored and regarded as everyday heroes. Not just with the conservative leaning faction either-but with everyone!
She used to tell me stories of a country galvanized into action as one. Of a proud nation singularly united with the sole purpose of defeating its enemies and preserving its way of life-the American Way! She spoke of “our boys,” and how all the young girls her age at the time dreamed of being the girlfriend of a soldier or sailor. Because he was the embodiment of all that was good and right. He was the defender of a nation and of a people. He was brave and honorable. Willing to die for our freedoms. He was the ultimate man. There were no muddled grey areas. No agendas. The American soldier was king in the 40’s and 50’s.
He was the star character in Hollywood. Always the good guy, people of all ilk’s filled the theaters to watch John Wayne or Greggory Peck or Audie Murphy kick Nazi ass and right all the wrongs in the world. He was the muse for artists. The inspiration for musicians. The salesman for advertisers: he was the be all-end all in all facets of popular culture in America! And when the war ended and he came home, the soldier was showered with ticker tape and kisses at all the parades around the country honoring him.
But, slowly over the years, things changed.
And today, sadly, in some circles he’s portrayed as a subversive cog in the wheel of an imperialistic military industrial apparatus. Say what?? Yep, the distorted views of a very loud (and powerful) segment have, over time, managed to completely change the perception of the American soldier in many minds. To some he’s just a useful idiot. And to a few he’s actually a villain!
But there’s been a change in the wind. We all can feel it blowing in. There’s a sudden resurgence. A newfound reverence for our fighting men and women. The soldier is making a comeback! Once again, he’s being recognized for his sacrifices and, once again, he’s being celebrated for the true hero he is. Young men and women are now being called to duty by our leaders, and they are accepting that call, in record numbers.
The pendulum that defines America is starting to, little by little, swing back.
And somewhere in the heavens today, tears of joy are running down my grandmother’s cheeks again. Because although we may never realize the America we were in 1945, we’re finally starting to love and honor, the right way again…
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