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Friday, May 20, 2022

Saluting the Greatest Generation

Mike Ruby
A Muscatine resident for over forty years, Mike Ruby had careers both as a teacher at Muscatine High school and as a writer for nonprofit companies. Now retired, Ruby continues to cultivate his love for writing by contributing monthly Ruby's Reflections to Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Muscatine Living

I find Tom Brokow’s book, “The Greatest Generation,” a fascinating read because my parents, several relatives, and many of my friend’s parents, were part of that generation. Born in the early part of the 20th century, they experienced poverty during the Great Depression in the 1930s, faced incredible challenges during World War II, and were threatened by communism in the Cold War that lasted for several years.

My aunt, nearly 103, vividly recalls a day when she was about 12-years-old. If the mortgage payment was not made by 4:00 p.m. that same day, their farm would be repossessed. As a last ditch effort, her dad sold her mother’s wedding ring and made the payment just minutes before the bank closed. During the Depression, girls wore dresses made from decorative flour sacks, kids were thankful for hand me down shoes, and food shortage was a constant concern.

WW II brought unprecedented challenges for families who had loved ones fighting in the war where more than 405,000 American lives were lost. It was a long and agonizing wait to receive precious letters from the other side of the world. Women gladly filled a large variety of “Rosie the Riveter” jobs to support the war effort. The years from 1941-1945 were filled with unparalleled patriotism and teamwork, doing whatever it took to maintain our freedom. As Daniel Inouye, former state senator from Hawaii said: “We stood as one. We spoke as one. We clenched our fists as one.” Brokaw sums it up saying, “WW II, and what came after, was the result of a nation united, not a nation divided.”

When the war ended it was time to celebrate! Veterans returned home with high hopes and dreams. Many returned to farming, others went to college on the GI Bill, and millions found good paying jobs in factories and businesses. They were thankful for a steady paycheck and a modest house soon to be filled with the sounds of babies and toddlers. There was a strong loyalty to marriages, family, community, church, and employers. They showed future generations how to successfully face unimaginable challenges, earning the well-deserved honor of being called the Greatest Generation. Sadly, most of them are now gone.

It’s a privilege to honor veterans and their families who have given so much. I served in the Kansas Army National Guard for 6 years during the unpopular Vietnam War and got a small taste of the sacrifices military personnel and their families must make. God bless America.

How can you honor the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation?

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