The guys from the Greatest Generation (those who were kids during the Great Depression and fought in WWII) are just about gone. And while there’s much to admire about them, here are 10 characteristics that made them especially noteworthy.
# 1 – THEY WERE PATRIOTIC
When Pearl Harbor was bombed, gutting our Pacific fleet, thousands of young men from the Greatest Generation demonstrated American patriotism by flooding military recruitment stations and pledging their lives to protect both the U.S. and democracy – no matter what the cost.
#2 – THEY WERE TOUGH
Nobody faced physical and emotional challenges as courageously as the Greatest Generation men. Brought up during the Great Depression, they were hard-knock guys accustomed to doing without. Maybe that’s why they were able to face hunger, exhaustion and unimaginable danger on the battlefield without so much as batting an eye. Whining, complaining, and wimping out just weren’t parts of their makeup.
#3 – THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE
The guys from the Greatest Generation enthusiastically joined the military, traveled halfway around the world, lived in primitive conditions, and faced down the fiercest of enemies – all without coercion. That’s because they believed it was their responsibility to defend their homeland and their loved ones, and they viewed that responsibility as an honor. During the war and ever after, they strived to be accountable, in charge, and the guy who held it all together in the end.
#4 – THEY WORKED HARD
Most of the Greatest Generation guys started working when they were very young kids to help their families survive the Depression. And whatever money they made, they handed over to their parents without complaint, usually feeling really good about it. For the rest of their lives, they would appreciate the value on a hard day’s work, give generously and take deep pride in their accomplishments.
#5 – THEY WERE HONORABLE
To those from the Greatest Generation, handshakes and promises were as binding as contracts. If they said they were going to do something, they did it. It was a matter of honor, something they respected it immensely. Perhaps that’s why their marriages lasted so long, many worked for the same companies for decades, and friendships were maintained for a lifetime.
#6 – THEY SAVED THEIR MONEY
The men from this era never forgot the value of a nickel, and were highly committed to “putting something away” every chance they got. It could have been because of their hard-scrabble childhoods, or the deprivation of war, or the family responsibilities that they shouldered on as soon as the war ended. Whatever the reason, they were savers. As a result, most of them didn’t fall into debt, lean on relatives, or end up destitute in their old age. In fact, it was quite the contrary: they were the ones most likely to take care of everyone else.
#7 – THEY WERE GENEROUS
The Greatest Generation has long been known for its generosity. Of those who remain, 88 percent give to charity, and give more than any other generation — a yearly average of about $1,367 divided among approximately six charitable organizations. Not even the affluent Baby Boomers can match those figures!
#8 – THEY WERE HUMBLE
Modesty and dignity were behavioral norms for the Greatest Generation. They believed that if you were really good, people would already know it: you didn’t have to toot your own horn. In fact, you shouldn’t talk yourself up because bragging was considered vulgar. As a result, it’s quite possible that you, their kids and grandkids, have no idea about all that Grandpa accomplished.
#9 – THEY WERE FAMILY MEN
Painful years of separation from loved ones taught the Greatest Generation men to value their wives and families above all else. At the end of the war, all they wanted was to get back to their wives and sweethearts and build a stable, peaceful home life and family. And for the rest of their lives, providing for and protecting their families would be their highest priority.
#10 – THEY GAVE US WHAT THEY DIDN’T GET
The guys of the Greatest Generation were determined to provide their descendants with the things that many of them had missed: a carefree childhood, a good education that included college, a savings account for a rainy day, a home they could always return to when things went wrong, and a world safe from tyranny, war and oppression. And for the most part, they succeeded. Lucky us!
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The Greatest Generation is almost gone, and their impeccable values, unselfishness, and commitment to home, country, and family seem to be in short supply in our modern world. It’s time to take a long, hard look at what we’re doing and where we’re going, and then figure out how we can emulate our dads and grandads to make this a better world!