From 1941 to 1945, citizens of the Quad Cities—four towns straddling the Illinois-Iowa border in the heartland of America—worked in war industries, bought war bonds, and rationed sugar. They sent their loved ones to fight around the world and solemnly buried their dead in the nearby Rock Island National Cemetery. For their extraordinary service, Tom Brokaw correctly labeled them as the "greatest generation."
On 7 April 2003, I was honored to be in the Quad Cities with the family and friends of Sergeant Bradley "Cruiser" Korthaus, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, who were gathered at Our Lady of Victory Church to celebrate his life and render final honors. Sergeant Korthaus had died two weeks before in Operation Iraqi Freedom. By the time the motorcade to the cemetery began, the sleet was blowing sideways and the temperature had plummeted below freezing. Yet members of the community braved the weather on every block of the nearly ten-mile funeral route. Some held flags; others had signs; still others simply stood in silent tribute. The funeral of a world leader could not have been more moving.