Today is my grandfather’s birthday. Arthur Richard Granat would be 121 years old today. And how proud he was that the war ended on his birthday, November 11th, 1918. Papa was not a soldier in any of the wars that took place during his lifetime. He was the sole support of his wife, daughter and widowed mother during WWI, and was not required to go to war. But his brother Axel, Uncle Al, did fight and live to return. My Uncle Bill, brother of my father Eli also fought in the war to end all wars. And Eli fought in WWII as a flight instructor, a lieutenant in the Naval Air Force. He died when I was in Kindergarten. My next father, Charles, was a dentist in the Army Air Force in WWII. Perhaps it was just the Air Force by then.
I do remember them! I remember a lot about WWII because, though I was born near the end of it, the day the Russians reached Auschwitz, and people were still talking about it all during my childhood, one way or another. And when I was in high school the Vietnam War was beginning. I remember my junior year, 1962-1963, feeling quite puzzled about what was beginning in south east Asia. I read a lot of newspapers and magazine articles in the school library and never really did understand. I just felt that there was no good side for us to ally ourselves with. I knew some young men from my generation who fought there, and a friend who was unable to fight because he had had polio as a young child and was classified as 4F. He said, bitterly, that he was probably missing a major experience for his generation. I’m rather glad he did. I was not for the war nor against it at the time. I was just confused about it. And now I think it was probably an unnecessary tragedy that took so many lives and harmed so many survivors. I honor our soldiers but I hope war will cease. It doesn’t seem that the sad world is close to that.
I think one year I quoted “In Flander’s Fields” here. Today I’m thinking of Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem. He was a man born in 1869 who died in 1943. What changes his generation saw. He was 44 before WWI began and yet lived to see WWII. These are the third and fourth verses of his poem about war.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam