The so-called “Greatest Generation” is losing members every day. Those wonderfully brave men and women were the ones who quickly and quietly went away (or stayed at home) to fight World War II. They are now a rare breed. It is my joy to get to know members of the Greatest Generation. I love hearing their stories. I respect them more than words can say. But they aren’t the only great ones. There are other great generations, too.
Long before World War II this country fought other wars. One of them was the Civil War, or the War Between the States. It was ugly. It was deadly. It separated families. It tore apart our country. And it was waged on the backs of another great generation. Both sides sent men to war who hadn’t yet reached twenty years of age.
One such young man came from my wife’s lineage. Her father’s great uncle was David Wallace Proudfit. He was 19-years-old when he volunteered for the 40th Illinois Infantry. David was killed in the Civil War battle of Shiloh on April 6th, 1862.
It happened like this: He was shot through one arm, one shoulder and through the bowels in the afternoon of that day. Proudfit crawled a short distance to a little stream. He filled his canteen. Then he crawled back with water for his Captain, Bright Shirley, who was shot through the knee.
After he took the water to his captain, Proudfit took off one boot. He put it under his head for a pillow. He died right there in that spot before sundown. When Captain Shirley was carried off of the field, Proudfit was still alive. But when men came back for him he was dead.
Captain Shirley, while recruiting, visited the Proudfit home to relate details of the sad story. He was incredibly appreciative for the thoughtfulness provided him by a dying young man.
What I can’t get out of my mind was that he was nineteen-years-old. At that young age he gave his life in our nation’s ugly civil war.
Young people have always contributed significantly to our nation’s freedom and our nation’s greatness. Sometimes they don’t even have to give their lives. I am so very thankful for all those who so willingly serve us to support and defend our freedom.
I am also thankful for all the great young people who contribute to our nation in other ways. They are the ones who:
- Start businesses
- Labor in our factories
- Serve us in hotels and restaurants
- Excel in school
- Make great art
- Inspire us with thoughtful writing
I guess what I’m trying to say is that one need not be past the age of thirty to significantly contribute to society. I, for one, appreciate the younger generations. Over the course of our nation’s history some have given their young lives; others have used their lives to serve us in other ways.
I appreciate them so much that I wrote a book featuring their stories. This book called Fully and Creatively Alive: How to Live a More Joyfully Fulfilling Life, is in the final stages of design. I can’t wait for you to read how young people continue to make our nation great. I’m looking forward to them showing us how they can become another “greatest generation.”
How excellent would it be if wouldn’t have to sacrifice one more young life in the throes of war?
What great things have you seen young people do?