I had the great pleasure of meeting an eighty-nine year old World War II veteran and his wife while out canvassing to Recall Walker yesterday afternoon. When I explained to him what I was doing, he sat up and invited me to come and chill next to him on the porch swing for a while. We talked for a bit and after telling him I had graduated with a history major focusing on World War II-era classes, he perked up and told me how of the various places he had been stationed. He then let on that he had served in the U.S. Navy during the pivotal, infamous and terrifyingly bloody Battle of Okinawa. He went on to describe the terrible devastation wreaked upon the sailors on the ships around the island as the Japanese military resorted to desperate kamikaze attacks and for the Marines who had to undertake the horrifying task of going hill by hill, tunnel by tunnel, with their weapons and flame throwers, as the Japanese soldiers on the island refused to come out and surrender.
After I learned he'd lived in Wisconsin his entire civilian life, I asked him if he'd ever seen a politician come along that was as ruthless as Governer Scott Walker. He sat quietly and pondered my question for a few seconds, then shook his head and said, "No, I've never seen anyone like Walker. Never." Although he and his wife weren't overly enthused about Tom Barrett, they were looking forward to putting their absentee ballots in the mail tomorrow with their votes cast for Barrett and Mahlon Mitchell because "We just have to...we have to get Walker out of there." We could not have been any more in agreement.
I sheepishly told him that I could talk with him all day long but I had to get back to work knocking on more doors. I made it clear I had appreciated the brief respite and the warm conversation and thanked him for his dutiful service to our country, telling him it was an honor to have the opportunity to meet him, a World War II veteran, on Memorial Day of all days. He somberly reminded me, "There aren't many of us left, anymore," a harrowing fact that was not lost on me as several minutes later I came to the house of a widow whose husband, another veteran of World War II, had passed away in recent years.
As I prepared to depart, he thanked me several times for what I was doing, saying he was proud to see "young people like you" out doing what needed to be done to reclaim our state and we bid our goodbyes. A proud, lifelong Wisconsinite and veteran of the most catastrophic war in human history, in the fight against fascism abroad, thanking ME and by proxy, all of us, for what we are doing for his state, in the fight against fascism at home. I could barely bring myself to leave...moments like that don't exactly come along every day.
This was unquestionably one of the most humbling experiences of my life and a pointed reminder of what we're fighting for and why we need to keep fighting. I want to live in a Wisconsin that not only the Greatest Generation can be proud of, or a Wisconsin that my generation can be proud of, but a Wisconsin that all future generations can be proud of. We have history to make...not just for Wisconsin but for the United States of America. There is simply too much riding on this to lose on June 5th. For everything he did for our country and our state, I refuse to let Jack Loew down...Solidarity, my friend.