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Draper Journal

WWII veteran says kindness is what the country needs now

Nov 07, 2023 09:10AM ● By Linnea Lundgren

Draper residents and newlyweds Norma Wiser and Gerald Jolley pose with their wedding photo. Jolley, a WWII veteran, lives by his “be kind” motto and writes Wiser a love letter every day, which she keeps in a large folder. (Linnea Lundgren/City Journals)

Before World War II veteran Gerald Jolley recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a group gathered at Ashford Assisted Living in Draper, he talked about formalities. 

“It’s not about saluting or taking off your hat,” he said of saying the Pledge. “It’s about what is in your heart.” And, with his voice filled with emotion, the 98 year old placed his hand on his heart and asked everyone to recite the Pledge with him. 

Jolley titled his talk “Patriotism and Kindness” and spoke to about 25 residents and visitors on Oct. 12. He lives at Ashford along with his wife Norma Wiser, age 88, who he met there. “I saw him sitting alone at a table and he looked lonesome. So I went up and sat with him. I usually don’t do that,” Wiser recalled of their first meeting. 

“She saved my life,” Jolley said. They were married at Ashford this year with some 300 friends, family and Ashford staff and residents attending the wedding. 

After reciting the Pledge, Jolley spoke of its words. 

“What do we pledge to do?” he asked. “To be one nation indivisible. And that doesn’t mean you can’t see it (referring to how people often misinterpret the word as invisible). It means we are not divided, but are one. Remember this because it is important.” 

“And justice for all. What does that mean?” he asked. “To all, not me, not one group. It means everyone, no matter what they do.” 

Jolley grew up in Arkansas, joining the service at 18 in order to be with his older brother Ace, who later died in a training mission. Jolley completed basic training at Camp Roberts in California. “I was a good marksman and in good shape. I thought I’d be a sniper,” he said. Instead, the new recruit spent three days on a ship headed to New Guinea, where he helped prevent Japanese soldiers from invading Australia, directly south. 

He still finds it hard to imagine that World War II took the lives of some 407,000 U.S. military personnel. But, he added, often forgotten, but just as important as those who gave their lives are the mothers and fathers who gave their sons (to the war effort). Jolley talked in length about his service in New Guinea and in the Philippines, but the emphasis of his talk was on kindness. 

“Instill in your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids that we are a country united. Differences can be resolved if there is kindness in everyone’s heart, and I think there is,” he said.

“I don’t care what side you’re on,” he said, “start working on kindness.” 

“Our generation, the Greatest Generation, is called that because we went through two world wars and The Great Depression,” he said. “But what we are going through now (a divided country) is by far worse.” 

Throughout his life Jolley said he has tried his best to love his fellow man. He recalled how people of all races fought in WWII. “Brown, Black, white…they all fought for our country,” he said. “They bleed the same color blood I bleed.” λ