Heroes of the past looking toward the future
By Congressman Joe Barton
They won a World War and overcame economic strife.
When their country needed them most, they answered the call.
This past week, members of the greatest generation inspired me with their strength, patriotism and vision for the future.
I had a chance to spend some time with 36 World War II survivors from our area.
They travelled to Washington to see "their" memorial – that is what many veterans call the WWII memorial, which was finished in 2004.
The trip was made possible by Ellis County Honor Flight, which is a local branch of a nationwide non-profit organization whose goal is to transport veterans to the nation’s capital so they can visit and reflect.
Thanks to generous donations from community these survivors got to make the trip for free.
This was the third group of veterans from our area to visit Washington, DC and the second time I was lucky enough to talk with them.
I thanked them for their service, something they had likely heard before – but haven’t been told nearly enough.
After I spoke about the valor and bravery displayed by those sitting before me, I opened the floor to questions.
There were a few inquires about Social Security and Medicare, but it didn’t take long for these heroes from the past to express concern for our future.
They survived one of the toughest times in our country’s history. World War II truly threatened our very existence as a nation and as a culturally diverse, free society.
But we prevailed and began a historic rise as a military and economic power.
Members of the Greatest Generation created that momentum and used it to improve their lives.
They passed on their work ethic and morals to their children. It was then passed on to their grandchildren.
But these heroes are worried about the next generation.
Several veterans expressed concern to me that the success of their great grandchildren would be hamstrung by our nation’s exploding debt.
It is a different kind of threat than the one they faced 65 years ago, but it is a threat nonetheless.
The generation that fought for freedom watches in agony as government gets involved in private industries and tinkers with financial markets. Their hard work helped pave the way for the successful society we have today, but many are worried because we are currently making less at home and borrowing more from foreign countries.
The veterans expressed fear that the ideals they fought for are being thrown by the wayside.
I explained as a Conservative Republican I fight every day for smaller government, lower taxes and a strong military.
They said I have their support, but urged me to fight harder. And when you hear those words coming from those people – you pay attention.
Despite the fact many of these veterans were in wheelchairs and had a hard time navigating the hallways of the Capitol, I learned a simple lesson - the Greatest Generation still has the ability to inspire and lead.