TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

July 10, 2014

May we all cherish those few WWII vets who still live

CORBIN — I watch this old BBC program pretty often called “Are You Being Served?”

It’s mostly out of syndication — what shows remain can be seen most often through PBS.

The premise of the show is a group of people working in a department store and the antics they endure.

One particular episode had the group camping inside the store due to some transportation strike.

Once tents are pitched, the staff gathered around a “fire,” which was nothing more than a fancy heater. All members in the group were dressed in pajamas, and the scene opens with them singing a song reminiscent of World War II.

Once the song ended, the group began telling “where were you during the war” stories — one had been in air raid precautions, another in the infantry, and so on.

As the stories were being shared, I was thinking about the actors and actresses in this production and was curious where they were now.

A quick perusal of the Internet gave me my answer.

Much to my saddened surprise — all but one of the cast members have since died.

I got to thinking about that show this past Independence Day weekend when the campground in which I stay held a fireworks celebration and a cookout.

That campground has been around for more than 50 years, but recently underwent an ownership change.

In an effort to help the new owners maintain the campground as a place to relax and unwind, myself and a friend who also camps there have been pitching in where needed.

Sometimes it’s getting ice — sometimes watching the store — sometimes telling children to mind the campground rules — just general stuff.

Well, on that beautiful July 4, campers knew a cookout was being prepared — hot dogs and hamburgers getting grilled filled the campground with juicy-smelling smoke.

The hope and expectation of the owners grilling the main course was that hungry campers would bring in a side dish to complement the grill out — seems logical.

While finding out which camper was planning to bring which side dish, we came across an older man slightly hunched over a cane.

He was a military veteran, although I can’t recall in which branch he said he served — it was a busy weekend.

Despite his slightly crippled state, the man managed to wander his way through the campground, speaking with anyone who cared to stop and listen.

From all accounts he was a very entertaining fellow. He sort of reminded me of my maternal grandfather, who was also a veteran — both my grandfather and this man wandering through the campground fought in that same war discussed in that British sitcom I like so well.

I realized then that veterans who fought in World War II are a rapidly dying breed — there’s no one in my family I can think of who could remember firsthand living during that war.

But this man who honored campers with his presence this past Fourth of July could. And I hope while he stayed there he was able to pass on some of those heroic stories of battles fought in a time before such worldwide communication.

But as the owners, myself and that other camper were extremely busy keeping things running smoothly — we didn’t get much of a chance to speak with him. I know I certainly didn’t.

We all kept having run-ins with one set of campers — it was a group who appeared to be relatives of some sort. There were probably a dozen or so total staying in tents in that campsite.

Supplies often ran out when they were around.

Their kids were getting hurt due to parental ignorance — the younger ones easily earned more than one demerit in the behavior department.

The young adults in that group needed a bedroom.

The group simply made camping difficult to miserable for the folks trying to enjoy the holiday weekend.

But the group’s disrespect came through crystal clear just before the cook-out was set to begin.

I brought down cole slaw and beans. I noticed the entire group of those troublesome campers were already piled into the pavilion area — waiting for the food to be served. They had parked there nearly an hour before it was finished.

Word had quickly spread to the other campers about our honored guest, the WWII veteran — and many of them easily invited the aging hero to join us all for dinner.

I was taking pictures for posterity when the dinner was ready to serve — and that group lunged for plates and food like a fly lighting on fresh cow fertilizer.

Most of them cut in front of that man on a cane — those who didn’t cut in front of each other. And by the time the owners, myself and that other guy got into line — the food was gone. I looked over at the plates of those campers from that bothersome group — two burgers, two burgers and a hot dog, three hot dogs — every one of those obnoxious people filled their plates like it was the last meal they’d eat.

It was pretty disgusting, especially when much of what was taken was thrown out and wasted.

Those people were pretty much forced to leave the next morning, especially after the leader of that pack came banging on camper doors at one o’clock in the morning yelling and shouting and pointing — all of which was an obvious attempt to either extract a physical altercation from one of the four of us, or finagle something for free.

Neither attempt worked.

The four of us sat and discussed the highs and lows of the weekend Sunday night — after the bulk of the weekend campers left.

And it was unilaterally agreed — those people were unwelcome to return, to say the least.

We also agreed they were rude and disrespectful to one of the thousands of men who fought against the tyranny of the Japanese and German governments in those dark years of the early 1940s.

May we all cherish and learn from those few World War II veterans who still live among us.

They could help us prevent history from repeating itself.

Times-Tribune Staff Writer John Ross can be reached at jross@thetimestribune.com.

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