Actually, I met the same hero twice in one week! Let me explain:
~ I was raised during the WWII era. My brothers served as civilians and in the military. My family enjoys hearing their stories and stories of people who also served - although they are often reluctant to tell them.
~ One major factor in encouraging our veterans to tell their lifetime experiences must be credited to Tom Brokaw who wrote The Greatest Generation (1998). Other encouragements, however belated, were the establishment of the WWII Memorial in Washington DC and the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Each week, The Baxter Bulletin, my Arkansas newspaper, publishes a feature article telling the experiences of a local resident and WWII veteran.
On Monday, April 18, 2011, Bill Cantwell was the featured WWII veteran who served in Germany. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, was captured and was a prisoner of war. I was especially interested in his story because one of my brothers also served at the Battle of the Bulge - with a different, nontheless dramatic experience.... Cantwell, as his story is told, got separated from his unit and was captured and held as POW for approximately six months before the war in Europe came to its close. He related his military experiences without drama or fanfare - typical of most veterans' stories I have read.
~ On Wednesday, April 20th, I was invited to lunch at Pebble Creek Country Club where I chatted with people to my left and to my right, finally discovering I had been chatting with Bill Cantwell, the very same WWII veteran whose story I had read in the Monday edition of the Baxter Bulletin. I was surprised and honored to meet this endearing elderly gentleman and gentle hero.
~ Certainly I am a fan of The Greatest Generation becuase my family, my brothers in particular, were and are important members of that elite group-that generation that grew up in the United States during the Great Depression then served during World War II before returning home to build America into a superpower. Yes, they did. And most, as citizens or veterans, rarely mention their war experiences. Their stories are long overdue!
~If you are a member of the Greatest Generation and experienced the Great Depression, whether serving as civilian or in the military, what is your story? I want to know....