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The Greatest Generation

F.E. Warren AFB -- My father-in-law is the coolest person ever.
His name is Leonard, and he's 81. He and my mother-in-law Pat live in a little town in northwest Iowa. They've lived there almost all their life, and they've been married for more than 54 years.
My husband and I call them every Sunday.
The first topic of conversation is always the same: corn. It doesn't matter if there is two feet of snow on the ground; we talk about corn. Corn comes before the weather, before politics, before health.
Now to tell you the truth (and I could be forever shunned for telling you this), I don't care about the price of corn. I don't understand it, but I have accepted it's just one of those things in life.
There are things we talk about, like corn, and things we don't, like war. Being a former investigative reporter, I wanted to know about the things we don't talk about. So over the years, I've secretly interviewed family members to try to find why Leonard is, well, Leonard.
Leonard grew up in Iowa, and at the young age of 23, he was drafted into the Army. Leonard didn't quibble or argue, he stood up and said he was going to fight for his country.
I don't think he totally understood the war doctrine and why the overthrow of fascism was important to democratic vitality, he just accepted serving your country was just one of those things in life.
Leonard went through basic and became a trained infantryman, and was sent to Italy.
World War II was gritty, dirty and tough. It made men out of boys--and Leonard was no exception. He, and his platoon, walked hundreds of miles as they made their way up the boot of Italy. And they were shot at the whole way.
One night, in the heat of combat, Leonard and his buddies were defending their foxhole.
A grenade was thrown into their foxhole. It exploded.
When Leonard came to, his buddies were protecting him once again. They had been killed, and their bodies were lying on top of him. He could tell he was hurt, but he didn't know how badly.
Leonard could hear the enemy approaching the foxhole, and they stabbed the corpses of Leonard's buddies with their bayonets as they passed. Leonard's buddies saved his life.
The shrapnel from the grenade tore up Leonard's leg pretty bad, and he spent time in the hospital before the army gave him a purple heart and medically discharged him.
He went back to Iowa, married Pat (who he met at a church picnic) and raised three sons. And he never talked about WWII again.
Leonard is part of 'The Greatest Generation,' but he doesn't see it that way. He just did what he had to do. He sees us as the greatest generation, because now, he sees the importance of democracy.
The price of corn isn't important. It's the meaning behind the words that is an unspoken thank you to the greatest man in 'The Greatest Generation' and his unspoken thank you to our generation. And that is priceless.