On Independence Day Eve, I had the privilege of officiating at a service for a man who served in World War 2. As you no doubt know, there are fewer and fewer of these folks left.
They are often called the Greatest Generation. It isn’t date of birth that makes a person a part of this special group; it’s much more than that.
More than about when a person was born, The Greatest Generation is about a way-of-living. It’s about learning the value of hard work, of a hard-earned dollar, and appreciating both. It’s about facing the challenges of the Great Depression, and coming through it, in tact, on the other end. It’s about rising to the occasion when the world’s peace was falling apart. It’s about making commitments and sticking to them. It’s about being faithful to your family, to your wife and children — year, after year, after year.
All of these traits were seen in Eugene, the man whose funeral was held the day before July 4. But like so many of his generation, Eugene didn’t talk much about his service in Belgium and Germany during the war.
One of the reasons Eugene didn’t talk much about his past is probably because he didn’t think it was all that dramatic. He would have felt that what he did was just what was called for. And so, many of the Greatest Generation don’t feel like they’ve done something great, but that they simply were doing what was necessary. They were simply doing the basic things.
But that’s exactly why Eugene, and others like him, are a part of the Greatest Generation. In a world where so many don’t step up and won’t step out – Eugene did. And what is greatness? – other than knowing what matters, what is central, and doing it faithfully.
Not only would Eugene not have claimed the title of ‘greatness’, like so many others of his generation, he was not one to talk about his accomplishments. In his mind, they simply weren’t great. But I beg to differ.
Living a life of love for your spouse and your kids and grandkids – for 62 years – this is a demonstration of the kind of love that does not come and go; is not based on the feelings of the moment – but is the greatness of committed love that is in it for the long haul.
Reclaiming each inch of Europe may not have felt all that majestic in the moment – but it was a collective act of greatness that preserved the freedom of the world.
Living an honorable, God-fearing life may not feel all that special — but it’s rarity makes it all the more notable.
So, thanks, Eugene for being a member of the Greatest Generation. Not by birth, but by life. May those of us who’ve come after, learn from you, and emulate, in our way, the greatness of a faithful life.