By Christy Shepherd
Younger generations of Americans have often been accused of not having much patriotism for their country since they have not been through a major national tragedy, like those of the two world wars.
However, the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. have united Americans both young and old.
Actor Tom Hanks summed up the feelings of the American people just 10 days after the attacks in a memorial broadcast by saying, “We all feel the need to do something about this tragedy, no matter how small. This has given us the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the American spirit.”
Since Sept. 11, people of all ages have shown their patriotism and support for their country in countless ways, from donating money to the rescue efforts, to displaying the American flag, to enlisting in the military.
Since World War II, Americans haven”t been faced with a pressing need to defend their country. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, America faced the possibility of direct home soil involvement in the war. But during the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, these threats weren”t as imminent. Because of this, fewer Americans were personally involved in these later wars.
Those generations who lived during those threats of American safety remember what it was like to sacrifice for the liberties of their country.
LaWana Shepherd was just in grade school during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and she remembers her family and community showing their patriotism and support by growing their own food in gardens, sending the women to work in the factories while the men were at war and rationing things like sugar, gasoline and shoes. However, she said she never felt deprived because her mother was a good manager of their resources.
“People didn”t complain about it,” she said. “We were willing to give those things up for our country. Everyone just did what they had to do.”
Howard Quackenbush, a professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, shared with one of his classes an experience he had during World War II. His father made him come outside their home near Seattle to look at the airplanes flying overhead. The planes were on their way to Japan, and his father simply told his son to “remember this day.”
Quackenbush said he didn”t really know what that was supposed to mean, but later found out his father was on the team that engineered the compartment from which the bomb was dropped on Japan. He said he has never forgotten and will never forget that day.
The day following the terrorist attacks on America, Quackenbush encouraged his students to not forget this day, not to forget what it has done to the country and its citizens. He encouraged his students to get involved in any way they could, from donating blood to educating themselves in current events.
The terrorist events have given the younger generations a chance to focus on what patriotism means to them.
Students have gotten involved and have shown support in their own small ways. The days after the attacks, newspapers all over campus were sold out as students searched for information. Military enlistment offices tripled their numbers of interested recruits. Blood donation centers filled to capacity. Restaurants and other businesses displayed patriotic messages on their marquees such as, “God Bless America” and “United We Stand.” Radio stations played patriotic music. Flags flew at half-staff for nearly two weeks. Elementary school children sent letters and stuffed animals to children in New York City.
Bethany Dolman, 22, a senior from Redding, Calif., majoring in American Studies, and Yajaira Arias, 22, a UVSC student from New York City majoring in graphic design, showed their patriotism by listening to patriotic music and decorating their apartment with American flags, stars, pictures of New York and spiritual messages relating to the support of their country.
“If I can”t be in New York right now, this is the least I can do,” Arias said.
Wayne VanDeGraff, 22, a senior from Woodscross, Davis County, majoring in psychology, shows his love for America by playing the saxophone in the 23rd National Guard military band. He said the purpose of the band is to motivate and enrich the lives of servicemen, veterans and citizens through patriotic music.
“I came to realize the blessings of America when I was on my mission in Honduras,” he said. “Our country is one of the greatest blessings we have and this is just one way I can show my support and love for it. But I can do more, I think we all can. Our pride and loyalty as Americans is what unites us. We need to do everything we can to keep it a great country.”
No matter how small an act of patriotism someone may show, each act teaches younger generations of Americans what it means to have a true love of country and unites all generations in standing as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”