For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is April 19, 2018

Grin 'n' Bare It

Here’s why they’re called the Greatest Generation

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

I have always had great respect for the group of Americans known as the “Greatest Generation.” Tom Brokaw wrote a wonderful book by that title. But each day this group dwindles, and soon there will be no more.

These men and women grew up during the years of the Great Depression, and they fought World War II to preserve the freedom that we enjoy today. They demonstrated personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith.

When I met H.N. Eubanks, I wanted him to share his story. He agreed.

“I was born in George County, Miss., May 11, 1920. More precisely, in the community of Rocky Creek on land granted to my grandfather as a Civil War veteran,” he said.

H.N is a member of the Greatest Generation. He grew up in a family of eight boys and six girls, and graduated from Rocky Creek High School in 1940. H.N. wanted to go to college, but the family could not afford it. So he went to work for his Uncle Lee Havard in his grocery store in Lucedale, delivering groceries on a bicycle for a salary of one dollar a day.

I was spellbound listening to his story. “When I was 21 years old I had to register for the draft. When they told me I would soon be drafted, I joined the Marines, and left Lucedale July 14, 1941, for boot camp at San Diego, California,” he said.

“They sent me to North Carolina for training as a telephone wire man, and then to a Marine depot in Philadelphia. By this time the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war.”

“Were you afraid?” I asked

“Not really. I wanted to serve my country. In June 1944, I received orders to report to the Fifth Marine Division at Fort Pendleton, Calif., for intense training, and then to Hawaii for additional training.  We knew that we were being prepared for invasion of a Pacific island, we just did not know where.

“Finally, on board a ship at sea, we were told the island was Iwo Jima. On Feb. 19, 1945, we waded ashore. The fighting was fierce and stayed that way for the next 36 days. The Japanese were in underground bunkers and tunnels and had to be forced out one by one.  

“After the battle was won, we sailed back to Hawaii for more training to prepare for the invasion of Japan,” H.N. said. I took a sharp breath.  

“Thankfully, the war ended in August 1945 with the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. I truly believe that the Great Depression toughened Americans and prepared us for defeating Germany and Japan.”

I asked H.N. to tell me about his wife and family.

“I met my wife, Doris, when I was stationed in Philadelphia. A buddy and I were at a parade one weekend, and we started talking to two pretty young girls. The next weekend I put on my dress blues and my best Southern charm and went to her apartment. I asked if she wanted to go to a movie, and she said yes. Four months later we married.

“Doris died in November 2013 after 71 years of a happy marriage. We have six wonderful children, one girl and five boys.”

I asked him about his working career.

“After the war Doris and I moved to her hometown of Ashland, Penn., and I worked several jobs there. But Mississippi kept calling me home, so in 1949, we moved to Rocky Creek. For the next 26 years I worked for the Air Force, first at Brookley AFB. I had to leave Rocky Creek when my job went to Eglin AFB in Valparaiso, Fla.

“I retired from federal service in 1977, found a  maintenance job at an apartment complex and worked there until 2001. They wanted me to stay longer, but by that time I was 81 years old, and we wanted to return to Mississippi.”

“H.N., you have lived a long and happy life. To what do you  credit your longevity?” I asked.

He thought a few minutes and said, “Well, I have always tried to take care of this body the Lord gave me. My wife cooked healthy, a lot of vegetables. I never ate many sweets, and don’t keep any in the house today. I don’t drink any soft drinks, and I have always gotten a lot of exercise. And I don’t smoke.”

“Mr. Roy has known you longer than I have, but he says that you have always had a good attitude and a smile on your face,” I said.

“I have never wanted an abundance of material things. I have always been content with what I had and where I was,” H.N. replied. “I have never been a worrier. Worry does no one any good. I believe attitude is the real secret to a long and happy life. I feel good, I go where I want to and I am happy. I intend to live until I die.”  

Americans today owe all of those men and women of the Greatest Generation for our freedom. Thank you, and happy 97th birthday, H.N.

Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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