Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

At 86, thankful to be alive, and American

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion

When you reach the ripe old age of 86, you realize there aren’t too many birthdays left. With very little future, your thinking goes the other way.

Of course, you do have a snippet or two of the years as a toddler, but the real remembering starts when you were old enough to realize that your world consisted of hungry days and tattered clothes.

The Great Depression had arrived. I couldn’t tell you what caused it, but I will tell you it affected most every person in this country.

My mother tried to keep things going on an “as-usual” basis. For dinner, an entree, vegetables and dessert.

At times, the entree was fried bologna. If you’ve never had thin slices of fried baloney, you don’t know that it curls up around the edges when it’s cooked. But it did, and since it was the only meat we had, it was OK. The vegetable was usually potatoes, and the dessert was always missing.

One other thing I remember about the Depression concerned shoes. Those were the days when shoes were made of leather, uppers and soles. In time the soles would wear out and you’d have holes clear through.

There wasn’t money for new shoes or to get the ones you were wearing repaired or resoled, and people would cut out cardboard to fit inside of shoes to keep their feet from touching the pavement.

It seemed those days lasted forever. But in time, people were back at work and the hardships of the Depression were forgotten. Well, out of mind.

Those days shaped my life in a way that I’ve been very careful of how I’ve used money and used credit. Extremely careful.

Next came World War II. I was the perfect age: just barely old enough to be a part of it, and young enough to believe in immortality. In 59 missions in Europe, I never considered being killed. Scared, you bet, but never a fear of dying; that happened to others.

I was of the generation that had a deep love for this country, and after the war, I spent 24 more years in uniform and two more wars.

Although I spent the majority of my years following WWII preparing for war, I think my proudest moments came in 1948. The Russians had blockaded Berlin, denying us access to the German capitol and trying to starve millions of people and run the Allies out of Germany.

Our country put together an operation that fed, clothed and furnished fuel to keep the Berliners from coming under the Russians and prove that you didn’t have to engage in war to defeat an enemy.

During the Berlin Airlift, I made 116 round trips from Frankfurt to Berlin, hauling 20,000 pounds of food, clothing, but mostly coal, on each trip.

I voted in my first presidential election in 1948. I voted for Tom Dewey. I was a Republican, and we lost that one. I voted in every succeeding election as a Republican, including the first time George W. Bush ran. But after Bush invaded Iraq on false pretenses and lies, I became a Democrat.

And now in the twilight of my years, I am glad that I have lived to see Barack Obama elected as president of the United States. But I am ashamed that there are people like Rush Limbaugh and a great number of Republicans who follow him, who want President Obama to fail.

I guess maybe through the years I picked up a few facts that those Republicans have missed: We are all in the same boat and if our president fails, we all go into the water. And believe me, we are in deep trouble now, without considering our present administration failing.

If I were to offer advice to our younger generations, I’d say, learn Chinese. That country owns us now, and each day they become more aggressive.

People who read newspapers learned just last month that Chinese warships challenged American Navy ships in Chinese waters.

And frankly, your Greatest Generation is dying at the rate of 1,100 each day, and I have serious doubts about what the other generations could do.

Besides wrecking our economy with his war, Bush has practically destroyed our military in Iraq, and I’m afraid we’ve stretched our troops about as far as they’ll stretch.

So as my days grow shorter, I can say I am thankful that I was born an American. What a great country! I hope it stays that way, but it won’t if we don’t all pull together.

Chuck Cavanaugh retired from the military and United Airlines and now lives in Oro Valley.

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