I was very pleased to read the article in The Great Bend Tribune “Bridging the Decades” about World War II veteran John Klema relating stories of his military service to Great Bend area students. Those students, and perhaps even their parents, are too young to remember the sacrifices made by the World War Two generation. My dad, the late John William “Bill” Marples was working building bombers at Boeing in Wichita while my mother, the late Gloria (Riedl) Marples, who was born in Great Bend, was working as a waitress at The Lassen Hotel in Wichita. Almost every one of my uncles on both sides of the family were in the military in World War II. Even my parents’ cousins and other friends were serving, too, in some capacity either in the Armed Forces or in Essential Services sector. I only have one surviving World War II uncle, Francis Keehn of Towanda, who is age 90. As I look back, I am even more grateful now, than ever before, for the service and sacrifice of America’s “Greatest Generation”. By contrast, although we have good kids and good parents in our modern world they haven’t been as ‘conditioned to endure sacrifice”. Many do not know how to save. Many do not know how to conserve. And, most tragic is that many do not fathom what delayed-gratification means. Our modern world has grown too distracted by gadgets, which are nice for communication and games, but we have grown-apart as a face-to-face society who will come together if peril strikes.
This Veterans Day is slightly after the 70th year anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. However, the spirit of thanking our Military Veterans on this November 11th should serve as a “gateway” for an overall month of Thanksgiving for all we have and the freedoms we enjoy. No single day can do it “justice”. Let us honor our war veterans. May we cherish the bountiful harvests and promote peace. However, let us be vigilant that the representative democracy we enjoy is contingent upon a concurrent constitutional republic. The two elements have enabled the United States of America to prevail and prosper. But, if we grow jaded or complacent and forget the past, we are doomed and condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. “History” isn’t a stale subject. It is a means by which to avoid previous mistakes and put us on an upward trajectory to be better and greater. I am thankful that John Klema and others are still around to “bridge the decades” so we can benefit from such wisdom. Our nation was built by the “Founding Fathers”, but it is up to each of us to “maintain it” and defend it from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. It isn’t a video-game. It is simply the realities of our real life in today’s global climate.
James A. Marples