My Godfather, Bill Mellan, had an easy smile and a big laugh. He was instantly likeable, and was a loving father to his boys as well as a devoted husband to the love of his life, my Godmother Mary Jean.
He was also a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, who had received the Bronze Star for bravery. I heard this last fact not from him but from my mother. Uncle Bill was much too kind and self-effacing to puff himself up with tales of military glory. I never heard him talk about his war experiences, and am under the impression that he kept the stories of his heroism to himself. That kind of quiet heroism is valuable and rare in a society where too often people cannot rush to a microphone fast enough to tout their latest insignificant accomplishment, and it just one reason why I admire him.
I am not a big fan of the propaganda about “the Greatest Generation,” which strikes me as too much Baby Boomer self-regard masquerading as filial piety, as if praising their parents now will make up for the awful things they said about them back in the 1960s. But I have nothing but respect and praise for those who did serve, and who, after doffing their uniforms, returned to build American society as loving husbands and fathers and hard working friends and neighbors. Those are true heroes. People like my Uncle Bill.