Social media was awash in outrage Friday by news of the senseless death of WWII veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton, an honorable life snuffed out at the hands of two 16-year-old young men in Spokane, Washington. Countless thousands across the U.S. and the world vented their anger at the heinous beating of the diminutive (5′) U.S. Army veteran of the Okinawa Campaign and Pacific War; Delbert Belton finally succumbed to his severe injuries on Thursday following Wednesday night’s brutal attack.
Far more is at stake with Mr. Belton’s tragic passing however. Shorty as he was known to his friends, represents one of the last of a dwindling generation whose selflessness helped win a war against violence, racism and hatred. At 1945’s Battle of Okinawa, he helped defeat a racist and violent Japanese enemy bent on conquest of the weak and vulnerable throughout the Far East and Western Pacific. Tragically, he died Thursday following Wednesday’s violent attack, an assault possibly fueled by racism and hatred. Ironically, this is the same racism and hatred embodied by the Japanese empire he fought against so long ago. At 88 years old, himself weak and vulnerable, Shorty was no match for the two 16-year-olds.
Shorty’s generation was chock full of energetic brave young hellions. The difference between these two generations appears obvious. Most young men in the 1940’s were noble, moral and honorable. Shorty and his generation were ready and willing to give their lives in defense of their country–in the name of freedom and the defeat of tyranny and oppression. Both Demetrius Glenn and Kenan Adams-Kinard’s obvious lack of integrity and moral decency, so gallantly exhibited by Shorty and his generation, brought them to a fateful Wednesday evening–a night that changed three lives forever. Glenn and Adams-Kinard were born in an America whose freedom has been fought for and tested since 1775, a country paid for in blood by men like Shorty and his comrade-brothers in the Pacific. Wednesday night Shorty fought his last battle. I am sorry Shorty, I wish I could have been there for you. A nation that was once in peril and in dire need, one that you helped save, has let you down.
Shorty represents everyone’s father or grandfather. He is the last of a generation whose values and morals could not be more opposite to those exhibited in today’s culture. As a “baby-boomer,” my generation lives in a shocking transition from our parent’s moral ethos—a character tempered by the Depression and World War—and today’s societal decay exhibited by these two men. While I weep for Shorty and his generation as they pass proudly in review, I fear for the future of our country, a once-proud bastion of decency.