Letter from the President
Remember . . .
By Paul A. Levengood, President and Chief Executive Officer
Recently I had the pleasure of leading more than thirty VHS members to sites in northwest Europe associated with U.S. involvement in World War II. We traced the steps of those brave Americans from the beaches of Normandy to the battle of the Bulge. Unlike previous VHS trips to this part of the world, this time our group included no World War II veterans. Sadly they are passing from the scene every day, breaking a tangible connection between past and present. So it was that all of us who made this journey did so, in part, to help keep alive the memory of what the Greatest Generation accomplished.
What I don't think any of us expected was to find how many residents of the areas we visited are doing their best to keep those memories alive. It was gratifying that, at a time when our nation is sometimes vilified, there are those who remember the sacrifices made by Americans to ensure peace and freedom in the world. Nowhere was this on more obvious display than in the small Belgian city of Mons, where our group's bus was met by a welcoming committee of locals decked out in U.S. World War II–era fatigues next to the vintage Jeeps and other vehicles they have lovingly restored. Mons was liberated by elements of the U.S. 3rd Armored Division led by Richmond's own Judge John Randolph "Bunny" Tucker on September 2, 1944. When the people of Mons heard that people from Major Tucker's hometown were coming, they wanted us to know that they remember what he and his compatriots did for them. After feting us at a ceremony at the city hall and treating us to lunch, our hosts repeatedly brushed aside our attempts to thank them for their hospitality. As one put it, "You don't have to say thank you to us. Your soldiers paid too much for our liberty."
This moved me greatly and got me thinking. The residents of Mons remember. But how do we ensure that Virginians and other Americans do as well? As there are fewer Bunny Tuckers around to remind us of the vital role Americans played in events that changed our world, do we risk forgetting the past?
It seems clear to me that in many ways it is our job at the VHS to ensure that the past is not forgotten but that it is kept alive for education, for warning, and for inspiration. In short, we are in the remembering business. And to those who might question why it is important for history to be a part of our lives, our schools, and our society, the words of Winston Churchill offer a stark reminder of what is at stake: "A nation that forgets its past has no future." With your support, we at the VHS vow to do our part to make sure that never happens.
Posted October 2012
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