This is not a bad dream that will go away By Bob Karolevitz As a member of the so-called "greatest generation," I'm terribly, terribly frustrated.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, I gathered with some 5,000 surviving veterans of Word War II at our state capital for the unveiling of a memorial to those of us who served. We were there to celebrate, but a silent pall seemed to hover over the ceremony attended by one of the largest crowds ever assembled in South Dakota.
The dastardly attacks by terrorists in New York City and Washington D.C., just four days earlier left all of us stunned; and those of us who wore uniforms in the first half of the '40s were especially at a loss of how to fight back against an enemy we weren't sure about.
When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on that fateful Sunday morning in 1941, we knew immediately who the assailant was. I heard about it on the radio at South Dakota State College, and it was readily apparent that those of us who were physically fit would eventually be in the fight.
But the only real comparison between the treachery in Hawaii and the infamous assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the sneakiness of the attacks and the obvious long-term planning which went into each onslaught. One was military against military by an identifiable enemy; the other cannot be described as anything but a despicable act of suicidal madmen bent on the destruction of more than just buildings.
Our sailors in the Pacific more than 50 years ago could in no way understand the Japanese kamikaze pilots who volunteered to give up their lives in their often fruitless missions. Now, even worse, we must oppose a faceless foe who cares nothing about sending fanatical terrorists to certain death.
It is incomprehensible to most Americans; it is totally bewildering to those of us � let's face it � too old to put on uniforms again.
No wonder there is so much frustration. I never thought, for instance, that the time would ever come when my only weapon was prayer. Maybe, though, there is something else I can contribute.
I can fly the flag and do my best to maintain that spirit of patriotism which now prevails � the likes of which I have not seen since World War II. Americans are notorious for their short-term involvement, but this time we must not forget.
This is not just a bad dream which will go away. Nor is it a made-for-television movie that can titillate those who choose to watch. It is an all-out war of a different kind, a war which cannot be won with M-1 rifles and bazookas.
As the days go on, even in this country there will be senseless assaults on those who "look like" the conceived enemy. Anger and frustration will cause irrational actions which might make our World War II handling of Japanese-Americans pale in comparison.
We need to know whether the capture of Osama bin Laden will end it all or further inflame a mixed-up world.
One thing is certain, though. We veterans of another generation would gladly trade our memories and medals for a final victory over the terrorism which today we cannot understand.
Let us pray!
© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz