I love history. As long as I can remember I've loved history.
When I was a physical therapist I loved my patients at the nursing home and in home health. I spent a year in outpatient orthopedic treating sports injuries and working with young people, but I wouldn't trade my time in the nursing home and in home health with my elderly patients for anything. Why? They were always just so honest and hardworking and I loved talking to them during their treatment about history.
You see most of my patients were of the age that fought, or were directly involved, with the happenings of World War 2.
I was fascinated by their stories.
I still remember helping one patient do exercises and walk in his home to get strength after a recent surgery. I always quizzed him about what the war was like.
One day he walked me to his desk and pulled out an album. He showed me a Japanese ID card and then a photo of a naked Japanese woman. They were obviously very old and I had no idea why he felt like he needed to show me these things. I surely wasn't expecting to be shown anything like that.
He then began to tell me a story of his time in the far east during the war and how he fought in different battles against the Japanese army.
One day he came around from behind a tree and was face to face with a Japanese soldier. They both went for their guns and my former patient got to his first and killed the Japanese soldier. The items he showed me were from that soldier.
As he shared, he didn't brag about those items like they were trophies. He was very quiet and humble and almost apologetic that he had been the one who did it but as he said, "It was kill him or he was going to kill me." You could see a sadness in his eyes as he relived that day. I can't even imagine being in a situation like that.
Why do I share all of that?
Yesterday, as I'm sure most of you are aware, marked the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. An event that took the United States into World War 2.
The men that fought in that war are now in their 80's and 90's, and each year that goes by more and more of these living history books die.
That generation has been called the Greatest Generation. From the patients that I treated who actually fought in that war, they would disagree. They will tell you they aren't any different than you or I but when their country, and the world really, needed them they responded. That's all.
So we don't mark the anniversary yesterday with joy. That war killed too many men, women and children to celebrate any day that marked the entrance into the war. Rather we celebrate the men who selflessly, and immediately after that bombing, volunteered to stand for freedom and fight against countries who, literally, wanted to take over the world.
They may not be the Greatest Generation of all time but I hope if you know any of those men who are still alive you will just give them a hug and tell them thank you.
They deserve much more than that but they would never say it and I'm pretty sure, from the ones I knew, they would prefer your hug.