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I once saw Charles Durning perform with the NSO by Lazarus
It was during a Memorial Day concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol. He provided narration during some patriotic music with a handful of other b-list celebrities and politicians. The other speakers, well, their words were generically forgettable, including Colin Powell's. Durning, on the other hand, spoke of an experience so profound, and with such emotion, that a crowd of tens of thousands became reverently silent.
Durning was a decorated WWII hero, a veteran of both Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. However, it was not these heroic exploits which he spoke of. No, he related, in very personal and graphic terms, about what it was like to liberate a Nazi concentration camp. As his own emotion swelled up on stage, all I could do was stare at my own feet to keep from being overcome myself. He concluded by speaking of the importance of our nation as a symbol of freedom and a bulwark against the type of evil he had witnessed.
And so, as our nation moves through an era of its history marked by narcissism and general cultural bankruptcy, we lose another member of the Greatest Generation.
Charles Durning, RIP.