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Greatest Generation honored in the House

Posted at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2008 by Michael Marchio

This morning, the gallery of the House was filled with veterans of the Second World War. Many of them wearing their military insignia hats identifying their ships and units, their Representatives on the floor read of their service as each one rose for acknowledgement.

One of them was our Legislature's very own Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston). Rep. Lieder's life story reads like the American dream.

Drafted in '43, he trained as an engineer and served as a replacement artillery man in the infantry. He knew German, so he helped interrogate captured soldiers, take care of displaced German citizens and set up local units of government after the war. He came back and married his high school sweetheart, and worked as a county engineer for the highway department, and has served in our Legislature since 1984.

He rose to speak after a standing ovation in the House.

"I think that every day that passes, we're getting fewer. I really appreciate the fact that all the veterans, that we recognize its coming to a close...I think we have to recognize, looking at what happened with what we call the greatest generation, it was a time where America came into its own and came together, more so than we ever have before. And it wasn't just the military, it was everyone. We put together the biggest economic impetus that we've ever seen, and that certainly made a real change for America. As I look back, I think practically everyone who was here that was in the service, men and women both, it would've been rarer that we had gone over 25 miles from home until we entered the service. And as we here about the many things that happened with the individuals, its something we can talk about now, and its just like everything else, its a passing thing. The greatest generation I hope has left its impact on the United States of America so that we recognize that things go around and come back around. We thought that was the war that would end all wars, but it didn't happen that way... I know we supposedly should learn from history, but sometimes history repeats itself and that's what's going on."

Rep. Lieder thanked Speaker Kelliher and everyone else who helped organize the event, and they adjourned for snacks.

My grandparents are members of the greatest generation, and both served during the war. What always struck me is about how, with all the hagiography and TV specials and books surrounding what they did, they're still so humble about it. They viewed serving as their duty, something that had to be done. They didn't ask for or expect us to sanctify them as the greatest people our nation or any other has ever produced, but they deserve it. Around 400,000 American men and women died in that war. Largely because of what they did, sacrificing, fighting and winning that war and making the world a much safer place for Americans, we can't even contemplate that scale of loss. Today, over 4,000 have died in Iraq, and nearly 500 in Afghanistan. It is an unspeakable tragedy for every one of those families who have lost someone, but they're the only ones who have been asked to sacrifice during a time of not one but two wars.

When you hear Rep. Lieder speak about everyone worked on the war effort, and our leaders tell us not to sacrifice a lick today, and instead to go shopping, or the shameful way injured veterans have been cared for, its hard not to see that as an affront to what the men and women of his generation did.

I promise this is the last of the Commish's editorializing, but if you see a World War II vet today, give them a thank you. If it weren't for them, we might all be living in a very different world.

Bob Collins over at NewsCut did a three-part series honoring the women of World War II, you can check out here.

I'll have another post for you this afternoon on MFL related stuff, but if you're interested in watching this mornings event, you can here.