“Memorial Day is … the day we remember those who never made it home, those who never had the chance to take off the uniform and be honored as a veteran. It is the day we stop to reflect the gratitude on the sacrifice of generations who made us more prosperous and free. And to think of the loved ones they left behind. Remembering them, searing their stories and their contributions into our collective memory, that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s one we all share as citizens.” – President Barack Obama, 2016
77 years ago, in 1939, my great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, wrote the editorial below for his senior year high school year book. In 1944, he fell in Europe while fighting for the Allied Troops.
George could not have known at the time of this writing that he would be shipped off to Europe to fight the spread of Nazism. He was a young man from a small, rural community who had big, bright hopes for his future. After high school he moved to the valley to attend the University of California of Davis. He married in 1942 and graduated with a Bachelor in Agriculture in 1943. He began his ROTC training during his first year at UCDavis in 1939 and enlisted the month after his graduation. He went off to Fort Benning, Georgia for his Officer’s Training from which he graduated in December 1943 as a Second Lieutenant. He landed in France in November of 1944 where he was killed in action on the 14th of that month.
Written when he was 17 or 18, I think his wise, young words still ring true today. What I love about this editorial is his focus on the power of education. On how much it can affect a person’s thought regardless of the person’s intellect or life experience. On this Memorial Day I think it is important to remember the values that our soldiers have fought for through the decades and centuries. And to think of how best to thank them for their sacrifice through our actions today, the way in which we chose to live, and how we lead the next generation.
“One point of comparison between democracy and totalitarian states that is very often mentioned is the difference in the educational systems and the ideals which are taught in the schools. In a dictatorship the persons in power usually see to it that the ideals which they believe in are taught in the schools. Thus if a militaristic leader is in power, he will see that the school children are not taught that war is the blight of mankind, but rather that it is a glorious adventure. All this, of course, is a means to an end for the dictator. Even though the young people of such a nation may not at first accept such ideals, they gradually come to believe in them after they have heard them for years.
“It is hard to imagine such a situation is a democracy such as ours. Many people believe that there should be more teaching of democracy in our schools. If this is done, however, it will be because the great majority of the people desire it, and not because of some dictator.
“The best procedure for American schools to follow is to teach the students of 1939 to distinguish between truth and propaganda. Knowledge such as this is not only especially valuable at this time, but will be valuable in the future.”
-George Allen, 1939