My Father - and the Greatest Generation. Why a Book Had to Be Written.

Michael Banner knew his first book had to be about the "Greatest Generation." His father, Staff Sergeant Alexander Banner, greatly influenced his life. Toward the end, he became his father's caregiver. Banner's book shows how his dad’s values are gifts for all of us today.

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My Father - and the Greatest Generation. Why a Book Had to Be Written.
7 Min Read May 18th, 2024

Many people don't realize that the greatest generation has been "the greatest generation" for a very long time. In recent years, the term has been used more often than it has been in the past. The Greatest Generation refers to the group of Americans born between roughly 1901 and 1924. They came of age during the Great Depression and the 1940s, with many of them serving in World War II.

Indeed, Tom Brokaw's incredible book, "The Greatest Generation," published in 2001, should be given much credit for keeping the recognition and respect of this extraordinary group of Americans in American society, but that was over 20 years ago. Brokaw explains it very well.

These men and women came of age in the Great Depression, when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague. They had watched their parents lose their businesses, their farms, their jobs, their hopes. They had learned to accept a future that played out one day at a time. Then, just as there was a glimmer of economic recovery, war exploded across Europe and Asia … they gave up their place on the assembly lines in Detroit and in the ranks of Wall Street, they quit school or went from cap and gown directly into uniform.

However, so much time has gone by, and we have lost so many from this generation, and their contributions are still felt today. It's time for another reminder.

Other factors have contributed to this trend as well. Movies like "Pearl Harbor" and, my personal favorite, "Saving Private Ryan" were not only tributes to that generation, but their vivid reenactment of that period of time allowed children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to see just how courageous their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles really were. Their pride in their country was the foundation for building America.

My Father – One of the Greatest of the Greatest Generation

I was blessed to have a father from this generation. Born in 1923, he asked his parents for permission to enlist in the Army at the age of seventeen (the U.S. Air Force was the U.S. Army Air Corps from July 1926 to June 1941 and known as the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1941 through September 1947.) 

Staff Sgt. Alexander Banner

Staff Sergeant Alexander Banner was a tail gunner in a B-24 and was shot down over Austria. He was held in a German prison camp for fourteen months. Being Jewish, surviving this was no small feat. He was liberated by Patton's 5th Army.

A plane flying in the sky

B-24, image from government files and are believed to be in the public domain.

He came home in 1945 as a decorated war hero, became an entrepreneur before that word gained its current popularity, lived a just-do-it life decades before Nike was ever heard of, and was an incredible example of what that generation stood for. 

He lived by a set of rules and guidelines that his generation stood for.

Values, Guidelines, and Personal Responsibility

It amazes me how that generation's guidelines still apply today. In fact, they may be more important than ever, considering the incredibly difficult times so many are now facing in this great country. However, it amazes me even more how many people today consider those guidelines outdated, old-fashioned, and too corny to apply in today's incredibly modern, fast-paced world.

It also amazes me that so many people, especially the younger generation, have either forgotten or maybe never knew who the "Greatest Generation" was, what they stood for, what they accomplished, and how their actions over 80 years ago literally shaped this country.

But, as we all do, age catches up with us, and I became his caregiver. 

Being a Caregiver for Dad

I remember the first time my father showed just how deeply embarrassed he was about needing my care. It was the middle of the night when he had an accident. Living with me and my two children, he had always been a fiercely independent man, a man's man through and through. Seeing him in this vulnerable state was a stark contrast to the strong, unyielding figure he had always been.

I quickly got to work, helping him clean up and changing his sheets. As I tucked the fresh linens into place, he finally voiced the shame that had been weighing on him. His voice was low, strained with emotion. 

"You need to get outside help for these things," he said, his eyes avoiding mine. "I don't want you doing them."

It was a heart-wrenching moment. My father, who had always prided himself on his strength and self-reliance, like most of the "greatest generation," was now feeling the sting of his own limitations. He couldn't bear the thought of me, his son, having to take care of him in such an intimate way. The sadness in his voice echoed through the room, a stark reminder of the cruel passage of time.

As the months went on and his health declined further, he became more insistent that I should act as a son, not a nurse. In those final weeks, I tried to honor his wishes, balancing the roles of caregiver and son as best I could. Despite his embarrassment and the pain it caused him, there were moments of closeness that I will always treasure. Moments when I could see the gratitude in his eyes, even if he couldn't bring himself to say the words.

In those last days, as his strength faded and our roles reversed, I held onto the memories of the man he had been. The man who taught me to be strong, to stand on my own two feet. And even as I cared for him, I hoped he knew that it was done out of love and respect, not obligation. 

He may have felt embarrassed, but to me, it was a final act of love, a way to honor the father who had given me so much.

To me, my father is the greatest of the greatest generation. However, he was not alone. I learned so much from him that has helped me throughout my life, and many of us today could benefit from it despite the many years since the greatest generation ruled the world. 

A Generation with Accomplishments

I want this article to have a very deep, or dare I say a profound, effect on those who read it.  So, of course, I Googled "accomplishments of the Greatest Generation." (Because Google knows all…)

What appeared on my screen truly astounded me. As a nationally known public speaker on this very topic, I was simply astonished by the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of accomplishments listed by this extraordinary generation.

 Of course, I will not come close to listing them, but I do want to give a "snippet" of the people we are referring to. 

  • The first Doctor to perform a kidney transplant – Greatest Generation
  • The first Doctor to perform a heart transplant – Greatest Generation
  • The first man to break the sound barrier – Greatest Generation
  • The first man to man to orbit the earth - Greatest Generation
  • The first man to walk on the moon - Greatest Generation
  • The greatest newscasters of all time – Greatest Generation

Okay, I'll stop now, but not without mentioning the literally tens of thousands of scientists, literary legends, politicians, lawmakers, policymakers, industry giants, military heroes, technology geniuses—the list just goes on and on…

Just think about it… After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, this generation enlisted in the armed services by the hundreds of thousands!

They couldn't wait to defend their country!!!

 And what was the end result of this massive show of patriotism? Along with their counterparts from our allied nations, this generation literally saved the world! Again, they didn't just save our country; they saved the world!

They defeated Hitler's plans to take over the planet and the Empire of Japan, which had the same goals.

And what did they do when they returned home victorious in 1945? (Most of them were in their early to mid-twenties.) Did they prop their feet up and say, "Hey, we saved the world. Isn't that enough?"

No, they went on to create the world's most vibrant nation and economy. They escalated homeownership in our country to the highest in the world, used their VA Benefits to attain higher education, opened up businesses, ran for public offices, and built empires that are still flourishing today. 

Why would anyone wonder why they are, indeed, "The Greatest Generation?"

Remembering Dad and His Values

Dad never became a millionaire, but we wanted for nothing and certainly had more than most. We were inseparable from when I was very young until he left us on May 5, 2005, in his bedroom in my home, surrounded by those who loved him.

A couple of days after his death, as I sat and wrote his eulogy, I realized what started as a eulogy turned into a tribute to my father and his entire generation. He had rules, he had guidelines, and they never changed. He lived by these rules, and he imparted them to his son every chance he had. And now, I impart them to my children and grandchildren, and I am damn proud to do so.

He was my best friend, mentor, coach, teacher, and personal banker; he was a rock when everything around him was unsteady. He was my hero, my Superman. He believed in truth, justice, and the American way. He was one of the best the greatest generation had to offer.

Gifts My Dad Left – All in a Book

"A Gift From My Father" is the perspective of the son of a father from the greatest generation. Depending on your age, you may be able to relate these perspectives with your father or grandfather. If not, these gifts may be beneficial in your life.

My book shows the beauty of the father-son relationship, a tribute to the young men who went to war as boys and returned as men. These young men who went to war were really boys with values and determination that turned them into the supermen who returned home victorious and built this great nation. 

Father's Day is right around the corner, and if you think someone in your family would enjoy "A Gift From My Father," please use the link below.

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About the Author

Michael Banner, National Reverse Mortgage Leader/Educator at American Pacific Mortgage and Host of the 62 Who Knew Television Show, has been in the mortgage industry for over 40 years.

LTC News Contributor Mike Banner

Mike Banner

Contributor since March 5th, 2021

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