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The debt we will never be able to repay

POSTED: May 23, 2012 4:00 a.m.

My father turns 92 next week.

In college he felt bad things were going to happen so he joined the Navy. Two months later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He spent the next four years fighting in the Pacific.

He claims he is not a hero, yet he was in places called the Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima.

His small ship was designed to grapple damaged landing craft and pull them off the beaches so other boats laden with Marines had a place to storm ashore.

I suppose it was a small thing, but over time I learned that no one involved in World War II did small things.

Those of us that were not there can't truly comprehend it today.

Everyone had a part in bringing about victory. It did not matter if you were a Marine storming the beaches or a woman building B-29s in Marietta, everyone pitched in, worked hard, fought and suffered.

The goal was win the war and bring service men and women home alive.

At home there was 24-hour production of equipment, farmers toiling to produce enough food to feed a nation at war and families sacrificing so the front could have everything they needed to win.

It was a time of unprecedented effort and a commonality of wills that is not equaled.

Still on a multitude of fronts many died in the greatest cause the world has seen.

When compared to our more recent military actions the numbers are staggering. One thousand four hundred and 65 Americans died in 24 hours on D-Day; 6,821 died around my father at Iwo Jima; the 8th Air Force lost more than 26,000 men killed in action over Europe. A total of 416,000 U.S. military personnel died in World War II.

My father and anyone who remains today from that conflict will be quick to tell you they are not the ones that sacrificed during the war. They were the lucky ones that did return home. They will tell you, usually with tears in their eyes, that the real heroes, those that did sacrifice, are those that died.

They did not return.

They did not go on to marry their sweethearts or start a family.

Those heroes never got the chance to see their children graduate from school or to build a business in their hometown.

They paid the ultimate price so that everyone else - all of us - can do the things we now so causally do.

Those that fought that war and those that helped in all the different ways, changed this country forever.

These people sparked the greatest growth we ever experienced.

They laid the foundation for new technologies, better education systems, new roads, new conveniences and new freedoms for all Americans.

Ask them and they will tell you that for all they did during the war it would not have been possible at all without those that sacrificed totally, with their lives.

Memorial Day is to remember them.

Do you remember them?

We argue so much these days about fiscal debt totally forgetting the debt we have to these people.

Unlike a monetary debt, it is a debt we will never be able to truly repay.

Perhaps you should take a trip to a cemetery where some of our heroes rest.

There are two nearby; one in Marietta and one in Canton on the banks of our own Etowah River.

Such places hammer home some of the magnitude of the numbers that fell, and those participants that have since passed.

You will never be able to shake their hand, but you can take just a few moments to stand amongst them and remember them.

Think about what they did for all of us.

Maybe in a small way you can repay a portion of that debt we will always owe.

Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.

 

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