This the first in a series of occasional columns in the coming year about local people who are part of what news commentator Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation.’’ He was referring generally to people born after World War I and before Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, in 1927. These are people who grew up during the Depression of the 1930s and helped defeat fascism in Europe and the Japanese during World War II, whether on battlefields, ships, bombers or on the home front.
The Rev. Kenneth Baldwin was quite optimistic about the future at the dawn of a new century, a dozen years ago. He believed, with hope and prayer, that the world could “limp out of the materialistic, war-torn 20th century’’ and finally host nations and communities that could live in peace.
In the year 2000, he wrote, “we’ve seen in the century just ended the effects of militarism, of violence, of neglecting the children and poor. There is another and better way.’’ He thought nations and communities, with work, might not only live in peace but have citizens who took care of each other and shared their good fortune.
It didn’t take long, however, for Baldwin’s optimism to be challenged. A year later, the horrific 9/11 attacks occurred, followed by war in Afghanistan and then, in 2003, the invasion of Iraq.
Any hope of creating a more-compassionate society at home was dashed as President Bush spent trillions on the wars.
But war was nothing new to Baldwin. After growing up in Fayetteville and spending two years studying engineering at Syracuse University as World War II raged, he entered the Army and was sent to the South Pacific. He and other troops marched through Luzon in the Philippines behind Gen. Douglas McArthur, whom he called a military genius.