Freedom Newspapers: Sharna Johnson
Clovis resident Dan True served as an Army tech sergeant in World War II. He was deployed to Europe and the Philippines as part of his three-year stint.
Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer
An American flag hangs year-round outside Lt. Col. Judy Griego’s childhood home. The man who hung it is her father, a veteran of World War II. He detonated mines buried deep in ocean beds to spare other seamen from unexpected blasts.
She is now an Albuquerque-based member of the Air National Guard. He inspired her career.
But her father, who lives outside of
Albuquerque, is part of a fading generation. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, only one in four World War II veterans are still living. And though the war her father fought in was the bloodiest in American history, it was in ways much simpler, Griego said, than the war on terrorism being waged today.
“My father knew who the enemy was; he knew the rules of engagement. They understood what they were doing. You would never have heard someone saying ‘I don’t know why we are doing this,’” Griego said.
Though she has never met World War II veteran Dan True of Clovis, Griego’s statement closely echoes his own assessment of the second world war, which drastically altered his young adulthood and can still bring tears to his eyes.
True, although much obliged for the practical skills the military left him with, had and has reservations about war, especially today’s. But at just 18 years old, instead of waiting for the draft to pluck him into service, True volunteered for the Air Corps. His height — he is a little over 5 feet, 2 inches — barred his entrance. He, however, didn’t escape the ominous draft and was called for service immediately after graduating from high school.
“I thought my life was over,” he said.
Later, the corps became so desperate for men that True was transferred into it from an infantry replacement unit. The greatest lesson he learned during the war, True said, is that it should be avoided fervidly. Yet True — a man who never joined a veterans organization and shied away from keeping in touch with fellow veterans — places the second world war apart from others before it and after.
“It was a good war, if there is such a thing as a good war.
And we knew it,” said True, a resident of Clovis. “We were legitimately threatened. Ours was a just war — there was no doubt of that in any of our minds,” he said, recalling German submarines that surfed threateningly through American waters prior to a declaration of war from the rising super power.
Those of True’s generation left behind quite a legacy. Some yearn for its return, even if it existed because the world was a little simpler then.
Though National Guard recruitment numbers have bounced back from the dip they took earlier this year, New Mexico National Guard Public Affairs Officer Maj. Kimberly Lalley believes Americans are not as willing as they once were to exchange creature comforts for what she believes is the good of the country. Today’s Americans are more apt to stand by and watch others make sacrifices for them, she said.
Her observations are largely derived from a World War II veteran and prisoner of war she befriended years ago. He taught her much about life, foremost of an almost extinct mentality, she said.
Her friend lived in a “kinder, gentler time,” Lalley said, where hand-written letters were oft the only communication between those on the home front and those at war.
Yet more fiercely embedded in him and others of his generation were values, according to Lalley.
“He always puts mind over matter… Today’s mentality is kind of a whiner’s mentality… And I think that his generation was willing to make more sacrifices as a whole,” Lalley said, an Albuquerque resident.
New Mexico Veterans Service Commission Officer John Fondrick of Clovis agrees.
He links hundreds of disabled veterans to benefits and services yearly, and the men who fought in World War II, he said, are of a special caliber.
“It was a different era,” Fondrick said.
“There was a greater sense of family,” he said, “a greater sense of patriotic duty.”
The latter, Fondrick said, was damaged by the drawn-out, nebulous Vietnam War — a war many compare to one in which America is now engaged.
What kind of generation, and what kind of America, will spring forth from it is yet to be seen.