Decorated Devon World War II Vet is on a Modern Mission
Jack Fitzgerald earned a purple heart and a silver star. Now he'd like children, and their parents, to earn a gold star in history.
Among the Veterans who make it a point to honor fallen soldiers at the Radnor Memorial Day observances is Jack Fitzgerald of Devon. Fitzgerald, 88, served as a Staff Sergeant in World War II . He fought in the first and last battles of the war. He was hit by machine gun fire and was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He was also awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Battle for Okinawa.
After World War II, Fitzgerald returned home but was called back to active duty as a First Lieutenant for the 7th Army Division in Korea.
Fitzgerald and his wife Dorothy have lived in the Upper Main Line area for 37 year. They raised a family here and he served on the Radnor School Board in the 1970's.
In 2000 Fitzgerald gave a speech at the Memorial Day Ceremonies in Radnor urging families to visit the war memorials a few hours away in Washington, D.C.. His message to parents is the same today. It is one echoed by veterans and military families at remembrances across the nation. Simply put: teach the next generation of Americans the lessons learned in wars past.
At the 2000 ceremonies in Wayne, Fitzgerald said "I charge you with a duty to learn about, to know about and to honor those who served in wars."
Fitzgerald believes that assignment has gotten more difficult over the years as children's lives have gotten more scheduled with sports, activities and lessons. Last week Fitzgerald sat down with TE Patch at shady picnic bench on the grounds of the Upper Main Line YMCA where he and his wife are avid swimmers who also work out several times a week.
In a wide ranging interview, Fitzgerald said he doesn't blame parents for finding it difficult to teach their children about World War II and other wars the United States has been involved in over the past century. "We have baseball, football, tennis, you name it all, and everybody's interested in that." Fitzgerald said that it's perfectly understandable as wars fade into history. He tells the story of a young adult he encountered who was visiting The United States from Korea. When he said that he had been in Korea during the war, the young woman looked puzzled. "War? She asked. She didn't know anything about it."
Fitzgerald adds that cell phones, ipads and other technology which keeps today's children in touch with each other actually may impede on history being passed from one generation to the next. Young people are talking to each other and learning on line, Fitzgerald said, but they are often not as engaged with their parents, grandparents and other relatives who may have served in wars.
In his Memorial Day 200 speech Fitzgerald recounted the toll war took on Upper Main Line communities in the 20th century. "World War I ended with loss of 20 men from this area...World War II, called 'the good war,' ended with the loss of 86 men and women from this area. The Korean War, often referred to as 'the forgotten war' ended with the loss of three men from this area. The Vietnam War, the war we lost, ended with with the loss of nine men from this area."
Eleven years after delivering that speech, Jack Fitzgerald's message remains the same. He hopes parents will take their children to see the monuments and learn from the sacrifices of America's war heroes so that they do not have to learn the same lessons the hard way-on a battlefield.