I generally intentionally avoid current events or anything remotely political on this blog, because that’s not its purpose, but news of the passing of the last American World War I vet this week just kind of inspired me. I’d like to share some of those thoughts.
First off, just take a moment to read through Frank Buckles’ story. This 16-year-old kid sees the world go to war, and wants so badly to be in the fight that he keeps going to military recruiters until he can convince someone that he’s old enough to enlist. After surviving WWI, he finds himself in a Japanese POW camp for three years during WWII, and then lives to be one hundred and ten years old. Not only did he outlive the second-to-last American WWI vet by three years, but right up until the end he fought for a national war memorial in Washington. This man is not only the very embodiment of patriotism, but he is history. Just imagine what he witnessed in those 110 years. His passing marks the profound end of an era.
This then reminded me of my mother talking about her own memories of similar stories about the last Civil War veterans. It’s a very strange thought, to think that someone could fight in a war that now seems so far away, but live to see automobiles and airplanes.
Then I remembered my father’s story about watching Apollo 8. He and my mom, a year before they were married, were visiting his grandmother for Christmas. There was a television broadcast as man first orbited the moon, but it was relatively late at night. My parents, being the bright young science graduate students they were, would of course stay up to watch. My grandmother opted to sleep instead. My great-grandmother announced that she remembered when the Wright brothers made their first flight, and of course she would be staying up to watch Apollo 8.
As I shared these thoughts with Dear Roommie, I couldn’t help but wonder…
What will we witness as old ladies?
Think of the difference between the Civil War and the 1950s. Think of how we took a glorified kite in 1903 to the moon in 1968.
The sheer magnitude of the progress that Frank Buckles experienced from 1901 to 2011 is enough to make me jealous. It also creates a very strong desire to see the same levels of innovation and development in my own lifetime, and a drive to make it happen.
Generally, I create just because I can’t sit still; I feel a need for forward motion on a very small, local level. But occasionally it hits me at a wider scale, and I want to share that forward motion with the rest of the planet. I want a medical advance to rival Penicillin. I want a Gen-Y Apollo moment. I want a flying car. I want progress that makes me say, “OOOH!”
What will we witness as old ladies, Karen?
I don’t know, but whatever it’s going to be, we’d better get cracking.