This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 7th, 2003


Television news anchor Tom Brokaw's politics are more liberal than mine, but he wrote a remarkable book, The Greatest Generation. A reviewer for Books on Tape said: "Brokaw's homage to the Americans who overcame the Depression and World War II, The Greatest Generation, is expanded with this collection of stories, interviews and personal histories of that generation. Enforcing his thesis that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those tough and courageous men and women for ensuring the freedoms and comforts that we take for granted today, Brokaw shows how they were sustained by simple ideals of patriotism, duty, family and honor. These are new, intensely personal perspectives of a momentous time in our history written by average, and yet remarkable, people who lived through those years. Some were written from the front during the war, others were written recently. Inspirational and instructive, this is really a book written by America. A remarkable and very personal thank you before this amazing generation, like old soldiers, fades away."
I mention this, because the "Greatest Generation" are the people my generation looked up to. They were - are - our heros. Can you believe people left their homes, jobs, careers to fight in a war half-way across the world? Executives left their offices, movie stars, sports and radio personalities left their comfort to serve their country.

The wives and mothers had created a new life at home while the able bodied men were off fighting the war. Women took jobs in defense plants, planted victory gardens, rolled bandages, served the Red Cross and USO, the 'little woman' became a responsible part of the victory over Germany and Japan. Many women joined the services, nurses, Wacs, Waves.....names some of you probably haven't heard.

And when the men came back they performed miracles, and created a new way of life in America. Everything from frozen food, freeze dried food, housing developments, manufacturing methods, radar, sonar, and a zillion other technical innovations to fiberglass. Yes, the fiberglass of the fly-rod fame.

Fly fishing changed about this time too. Injured servicemen were introduced to fly-tying while in military hospitals, when they returned home, many pursued the fishing to go with the tying. Fly fishing changed from an elitist rich man's sport to one attainable to anyone who wanted to fly fish. Those men, our fathers, uncles, grandfathers were our heros.

They were also the ones who fought to preserve our rivers and lakes. They founded organizations like Trout Unlimited, FFF, Ducks Unlimited. They felt preserving the water and the wildlife was important. So they did it. They lobbied for state and federal protection of the waters and got laws passed no one thought possible.

I'm writing this, because there seems to be a huge gap between those of us who lived with the 'greatest generation,' who saw it in action, who benefitted from the sacrifice of those who defended this country and those who think patriotism is a dirty word. Those who served in Korea and Viet Nam have never received the proper thanks from their country - and for the most part not from the average American citizen either. We are in shock when we read the comments and posts on this website from people who attack our country, it's leaders, the military and the average American who does support them. Since I lived through those wars, I find it very difficult to understand the vicious anger of those who didn't.

I've always said I thought fly fishers were the nicest group of people I have ever been associated with. Frankly, most of that group I associated with were of my age group or older, contemporaries. People who had the same frame of reference - and for the most part the same values! We respected each other, our country and the privilege of being able to fish wonderful waters. We stood for the National Anthem. (In fact as a kid, I stood in my livingroom when it was played on the radio at the start of a baseball game!) Men removed their hat and covered their heart when the flag passed by. Folks went to parades on the 4th of July and knew what they were there to celebrate. We knew actions had consequences.

My respect for the flag and all it represents, our country and our military has not changed.

But it seems to me, we have a generation or two of fly fishers who never had the heros my generation had. Who are their heros? Jane Fonda, Timothy O'Leary, Rolling Stones, Elvis, Madonna, Sean Penn and Barbra Streisand? The values which we accepted with honor are not their values. For most it seems to be 'me first, blame America first, it's not my fault and I'm not responsible.' We do not have the same frame of reference.

And this makes me very sad.

Our country will survive. Our flag will still wave. But fly fishing may not survive.

Who will fight for it? ~ The LadyFisher

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