As with most of those who made it back, it seems there has rarely been an appropriate moment to share details of those days. Even if the moment presented itself, the story is not an easy one to tell. How does one present the full context of the experience? Wanting above all to be accurate, how does one weave a complete and coherent story out of a collection of memories, some vivid and some vague, particularly when you never knew the whole story anyway? And how do you tell your story knowing that it is only a very small part of a very large undertaking. So, more often than not, their stories go untold.
Perhaps the silence is part of what makes Papa John ? and so many like him in the Greatest Generation ? exactly that: the Greatest Generation. It is our duty, not theirs, to collect and preserve their story. That is why it is good to build museums, write books and produce documentary films. It is right to recognize their sacrifice. That is the reason we establish memorial days and create memorial monuments, like the one on the Mall in Washington and others in hometowns across America. And it is right to thank them, by stepping forward to take up the banner of service they carried so faithfully.
Our brave men and women fighting in Iraq are a long way from having their own memorials. But they are part of a grand tradition of Americans who have sacrificially left everything dear and comfortable and have traveled to spill their blood on somebody else's soil, on behalf of somebody else's freedom. Wars are, by nature, controversial; by definition, full of conflict ? physically, emotionally and politically. But there should be no controversy, no conflict, over honoring those who serve.
So to all those who have donned the uniform in honor ? from our dear Papa John and his World War II comrades, to the youngest soldier in Iraq ? we thank you and assure you: Your story will be told.