The Greatest Generation is quickly slipping into history | Don Brunell

An estimated 389,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive.

The Greatest Generation is quickly slipping into history | Don Brunell

Just before Veterans Day, the last known survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor died at age 98. With the passing of George Hursey of Massachusetts, it closed that chapter of World War II — the world’s most deadly conflict in which over 60 million people perished.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “the date which will live in infamy.” During the surprise attack, 350 Japanese aircraft descended on Pearl Harbor and nearby Hawaiian military installations in two waves. More than 2,400 Americans were killed, and 21 ships were sunk or damaged.

Hursey lived to fight elsewhere in the Pacific Theater, including New Guinea and Guadalcanal, where he was injured. He was discharged from the Army in 1945 after reaching the rank of First Sergeant.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the men and women who fought and won World War II are now in their late 80s and 90s. They are dying quickly (400 per day) and the last estimate is fewer than 389,000 of the 16 million Americans who served are alive.

In his book, Tom Brokaw called them our “Greatest Generation.” He wrote these men and women fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

“They grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II and contributed to the war effort on the home front,” Brokaw added.

World War II impacted every family. My father and his two brothers were Army veterans who served in the Pacific and European theaters. Letters from the battlefront were sporadic and my grandparents lived with the fear that representatives from the War Dept. would show up on their doorstep with the news that one of their sons was either killed or missing in action.

Even with today’s modern communications, war is difficult for many families who have loved ones deployed in foreign combat zone such as Iraq and Afghanistan. It is equally hard for those whose relatives have been killed or suffer from permanent psychological and physical wounds.

There is a new appreciation for our military that was absent during the Vietnam conflict. And, thankfully we are addressing important psychological needs such as Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We now recognize that mental and emotional wounds are as serious as loss of limbs or mobility.

Once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, it is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD extends beyond the military to law enforcement, emergency responders, rape victims, and those suffering the consequences of heinous crimes and disasters.

We are just scratching the surface of PTSD. While many World War II veterans coped with “shell shock” by parking it in the back of their minds and hoping it just goes away, we are learning PTSD needs to be treated. Hiding it can lead to suicide.

In the United States, more than 40,000 people commit suicide each year. USA Today reports last year, 325 active-duty troops died by suicide, a rate of 24.8 per 100,000. The civilian suicide rate is 18 per 100,000.

While it is undocumented, the suicide rate among our military in WWII was thought to be much less than it is today. After WWII, speculations is it may have been under reported.

Perhaps we can learn from World War II documents. That is a good reason to keep the memory of America’s Greatest Generation and veterans, such as George Hursey, alive. Studying their lives just may unlock information helpful to treating emotional disorders.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Bush’s 9/11 epilogue needs to be America’s prologue

We needed a reminder of the way our country came together after 9/11. We got it from George W. Bush.

Carolynn Bernard, owner and operator of Bless Ewe Sheep Company pets one of the sheep on her farm in Enumclaw on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
COVID, droughts put local sheep sanctuary in jeopardy

Owner Carolynn Bernard took to GoFundMe in hopes of raising money to make it through the winter.

Don Brunell
Recycling batteries key to protecting our planet

Americans already toss about 180,000 tons per year, and electric cars are just hitting the scene.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Stop, Rethink State’s Long Term Care Law | Brunell

People need long term care. But the Washington Cares Act might not be the best answer.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Japan’s hydrogen pilot may work in Washington

The Evergreen state already excels at using renewable energy. What if we added hydrogen to the mix?

A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa
Puget Sound Darigold workers on verge of strike amid contract negotiations

Workers cite lack of medical leave, outsourcing and bad-faith negotiations as reason for strike.

Don Brunell
Massive reforestation effort needed

Forestry effort would control future wildfires, create jobs and help fight climate change

Don Brunell
Don Brunell
Bumper car therapy | Brunell

The joy of bumping around in the small electric vehicles could mean more than family fun

Don Brunell
Power of Our Interconnected Grid with Ample Supply | Brunell

Cheers to the Pacific Northwest power grid for weathering our recent heat wave

Don Brunell
Family Tree Farms Key to Cutting Greenhouse Gases | Brunell

Small-time tree farmers are the unsung heroes of our healthy forests

Dave and Buster's restaurant and entertainment venue looks to hire 130 people to staff its Bellevue venue, set to open in August. Photo courtesy Dave and Busters.
Dave and Buster’s hiring 130 for August opening in Bellevue

Dave and Buster’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens in downtown Bellevue on… Continue reading