The debt we owe as a nation to the greatest generation cannot be underestimated, and Judson Stone knows that firsthand. As the son of a World War II veteran who continued to serve his country for decades after the war, Judson had an up-close-and-personal view of the greatest generation. Readers may not know Colonel Frederic A. Stone’s name, but he certainly led a remarkable life, and in this new biography of his father, Judson Stone brings to the forefront the qualities that made his father in many ways a typical American and in other ways an extraordinary man.
Like most biographies, A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation begins with some family history, which I found fascinating. The Stone family can trace its lineage back to the Mayflower, and theirs is a story that has seen many significant moments in American history and they have brushed elbows with many of America’s greatest men, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. And yet, these were also typical middle class Americans just working hard to make a living and be good citizens. Perhaps most remarkable is the family’s constant faith in God, which ultimately led to Judson Stone becoming a minister.
As for Colonel Frederic Stone himself, his story is one of growing up in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, falling in love, trying to decide what to do with his life, and ultimately, becoming an aviator in World War II. Some of the most interesting moments in the book describe how Stone was part of the campaign to fly over the hump in Asia.
After the war, Colonel Stone returned home and decided to practice medicine while also remaining in the Air Force and being stationed at various locations around the country. One of his greatest accomplishments was serving as part of the medical recovery team for three lunar missions-Apollo 7, 9, and 10-the last being a dress rehearsal for landing a man on the moon.
While Judson Stone details the significant events of his father’s life, he also places them against a larger backdrop of how national and international events affected his family, from the Surgeon General’s warning against smoking in 1964 that caused his parents to give up cigarettes, to how the Kennedy assassination stunned the nation, and the changing views on race in America.
After retirement, Colonel Stone continued to be a remarkable man, and his wife joined him in his endeavors. They became missionaries to Africa, his medical skills serving them well in their goal to help others while also spreading the gospel. One of the most surprising and touching moments in the book comes when in appreciation for Colonel Stone’s medical service, the local chief proceeded to roll on the ground in front of him, a sign of respect for an honored guest-an honor the chief had only bestowed once before in his life.
Added to the professional life of Colonel Stone are Judson Stone’s personal memories of his father, including their various vacations together, his father’s advice to him, and ultimately, the care Judson provided for his parents at the end of their lives.
A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation is in many ways the story of an American family who are very much just like you and me. At the same time, it’s the tale of an extraordinary man who was there to serve his nation, his God, and his fellow men when needed. It is a book that reminds us that we are all capable of greatness in our daily lives, and it is, especially, a testament to a father and son’s love for one another and an inspiration to us all.