I met Rosie the Riveter

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 15, 2004

She was on our buses July 6th when three loads of us traveled up to DC to see the World War II Memorial. Forty-five per bus times three equals a lot of gray-haired &uot;boys and girls,&uot; most all on the other side of 80 and representing all the military services. Congressman Randy Forbes had made the arrangements, a stroke of genius, as a gift to what he referred to as the &uot;Greatest Generation.&uot; We don’t really acknowledge that title but accept it graciously, remembering only that we did grow up in the Great Depression and took part in a great war that many claim saved the world.

In truth many on that bus would otherwise never have made the hazardous trip up to Washington where traffic congestion is a byword and finding a parking place within walking distance of the memorial is impossible. Not too many of us are able to make long treks and just viewing every nook and cranny of the &uot;salute to those who served&uot; was not effortless in that hot sunshine. It takes an hour to properly judge the results of millions of dollars expended, and the exacting labor of hundreds. No one expressed disappointment. All would agree we waited long enough for such a tribute and we are only sorry that not all of the millions who served our country lived to see it.

When I looked at our generation posing for a group photo I realized that about half of them were the wives and sweethearts who labored in the factories of the forties producing what the rest of us needed regardless of where we were scattered about the world. And I thought about the miracle of supply, how all those goods came to us usually before we needed them. When one considers how unsophisticated we were back then, how our technology was created in an instant, we did a pretty darn good job. Many books written after the war and some today express wonder at the achievements of our nation. And, regardless of political party, we had all been saddened when we learned President Roosevelt would not be there to savor the final victory.


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Congressman Forbes, to eliminate any impropriety, had us pay a nominal fee and we felt better about it ourselves. None of us were ever able to be comfortable getting something for nothing. Both political party stalwarts on the buses agreed Randy Forbes did us all a big favor. And he rounded out the event with lunch at Fort McNair Officers Club (it was nice to see that our brass lives well) where the dessert was Sen. Robert Dole who was made a lefty by the enemy. He regaled us with stories and quick quips for more than half an hour and then after dining with us shook hands and posed for individual pictures. He is one great guy and very much responsible for the Memorial being there to see.

Randy Forbes and his young staffers took very good care of us making sure we did not dehydrate or starve, kept us from wandering off, returning to the right bus, and with friendly smiles made us feel important. And we all pretended we did not require that much attention, after all, we are the greatest. If we could survive the Depression AND a war, we must have been right clever and still are. Oh, but to be as young as his staff.

The more I think and write about it, the more I appreciate Randy Forbes grand gesture. It took me years to get to DC to see the heart rending black stone wall memorial for those killed in Vietnam, and more years to get misty eyed when I viewed those soldier statues crossing that rice field at the Korean War Memorial. So I felt very proud walking in that World War II field of granite wearing my commemorative World War II cap and seeing respect in the eyes of more recent generations. One young couple stopped and asked if we had been in that war, apparently they did not believe what was on my cap, and they said, &uot;Thank you&uot; for being there. I thank Randy Forbes for giving us that moment.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at Robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com.