Pondering the generations, with L.E. Taylor
IN 1943 AMERICA, an eight-year-old boy’s imagination was teeming with real heroes. Certainly mine was. Not rock stars or millionaire sports hotshots; these were true, living heroes, not much older than I. Unlike our twenty-first century darlings, these icons weren’t full of themselves. These heroes didn’t strut or preen. They just worked. They got dirty and bloodied, and many died young doing the work they were paid a pittance to do.
They waged war against evil.
In the great fortified arsenal that was our city in those days, everyone was obsessed with The War. We lived in the shadow of fear and uncertainty that haunted families everywhere in the world. But we were uniquely blessed – the hideous battlefields of Europe and the Pacific would not come to us. Too much ocean to cross for the bad guys to get at us. Instead, American families had to send their youngsters “over there”.
Television wasn’t even a word. All we knew of the drama came by way of the radio, daily newspapers, and Life Magazine. But they were enough to invade a child’s innocent mind with the unspeakable. Enough for a bright, imaginative lad to draw conclusions about good and evil, bad guys and good guys.
Yesterday, I opened an email from a neighbor. It had a link. Suddenly, I was in the presence of one of my heroes of 1943. No, I didn’t know this fellow personally, or even by name. But I recognized him in a flash. He wore a crisply laundered and starched U.S. Air Force summer uniform, with big silver captain’s bars on the collar. His officer’s cap was as squared and as becoming to his handsome ninety-one-year old face as it had been the last time he wore it. Seventy years ago.
Please allow me to introduce you to P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, Captain Jerry Yellen:
When I grow up I want to be just like him.