The way those men were greeted when they came home from that horror is a shame to our country. They did not start that war; they were just pawns on a larger political chessboard. The ones who spat on them and called them names were, by and large, a younger group who had never fought in a war, never experienced any sort of economic deprivation, but rather, had their lives handed to them on a silver platter.
In 1994 another group of veterans was finally given the honor they deserved in the many 50th anniversary observances of D-Day. They were called “the Greatest Generation,” for making it through the Great Depression and then going on to fight for their country. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice, as we call it. Of the few still left, others still suffer from the injuries they incurred. Many more still bear the pain of emotional scars from that awful conflict. Truly they deserve our respect and our gratitude.
So what has happened? 1994 is gone. I live in Florida, where a great many retirees, many of whom are veterans, finish their lives. They are regularly the brunt of jokes and disrespect from a generation that may never know the trials that group went through, solely because those people went through those trials. Funny how time can wreak such havoc with attitudes isn’t it?
Unfortunately, I have seen the same thing happen in the Lord’s body. A younger generation sneers at an older one because it is older, because it doesn’t understand that society is a bit different, and what was once expedient no longer is. Yet that older generation is the one who saw the problems in the work force during the 40s, a war machine grinding out supplies at a pace unheard of before. They were the ones who saw the need for a Sunday evening service so that those Christians who were working shifts would not be left out of the group activities, so they too could experience the encouragement that comes from praising and thanking God together.
You know what? When they came up with that idea, it was new, it was different--it broke all the traditions. Don’t sit there on your high horse and accuse them of not being able to change with the times.
That is why those things are so hard for them to give up. Yes, for some there may be an attitude problem, perhaps a willfulness or stubbornness that should be dealt with, but I would suggest that is not the case for most. Just because someone has a difficult time seeing the need for an expedient change, does not mean he is a Pharisee, which seems to be the accusation du jour. Too many times we act towards them with a disrespectful scorn and impatience, while at the same time being happy to stand on those same tired, hunched shoulders, shoulders that bore the burden of fighting the battles that have kept the church sound and faithful to the Lord. Where would we be now without them?
My generation and the one just younger need to be careful. Withholding respect and honor and cloaking it as righteousness is simply another facet to the same Phariseeism we claim to abhor (Mark 7:8-13). Our Lord would not like it now any more than he did two thousand years ago.
So please, be a little more careful how you speak to and about the old warriors. Be understanding of the feelings they must have, seeing their world change perhaps more than any other generation before. Be grateful to them for what they have been through and the battles they have fought. One of these days, another generation will come along and look at you and the things you don’t want to change. What kind of example will you have left them?
You shall stand before the gray head and honor the face of the old man, and you shall fear your God. I AM Jehovah, Lev 19:32.