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We’ll admit it: we have some trouble keeping up with younger generations and their trends. Apparently baggy jeans are back in style? Side parts are out? The data collection and privacy concerns surrounding TikTok aren’t that big of a deal?
We may never catch up with the latest generations, but we’ll always take an opportunity to appreciate the Greatest Generation. A recent BDN story about three of Maine’s World War II era veterans provided another welcome chance to do so.
Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. Only about 326,000 of them are still alive today. Three Maine veterans from that generation — Don Gallupe, George Newhall and Carmine Pecorelli — were on the University of Maine campus recently for the unveiling of a plaque honoring all of the Americans who served during World War II.
Newhall, 93, grew up in Bangor and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1946 (He enlisted after the war ended, but is still a World War II veteran based on the legal definition for federal benefits). More recently, he was a troop greeter who helped welcome returning soldiers at Bangor International Airport. Gallupe, 97, was born in Brewer and was a gunner in the Army Air Corps. He became a unit commander at the ripe old age of 18. Kids those days. Pecorelli, 96, is a Belfast resident who served as a petty officer in the Navy.
At the event in Orono, the three men shared reflections on their service. Americans across all generations would do well to listen to their perspectives and the perspectives of other members of the Greatest Generation. The harsh reality is that we’re approaching a time without any Greatest Generation members left. We should listen and learn from them while we still can.
We noticed one trend in particular from their remarks: gratitude. Here are three men who have been through so much, and probably have a few things to rightfully complain about, but still demonstrate gratitude.
Pecorelli evoked the Roman statesman Cicero and said that gratitude is one of humanity’s greatest attributes, as reported by the BDN’s David Marino. Hard to disagree with that. Both Pecorelli and Newhall had somewhat similar answers when asked how it feels to be one of the last World War II veterans.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Newhall responded.
“I feel grateful, and I’ll carry the memory with me,” Pecorelli said. “The body will go, but not the spirit.”
Just as these members of the Greatest Generation display gratitude, they also deserve gratitude from the rest of us. They and their peers displayed remarkable heroism, humility, service and sacrifice. Those are things that we hope never go out of style, in any generation.