WWII was the best thing that ever happened to my father. He was just a shade too young, turning 18 in June of 1945. (He had tried to enlist in the Marines at 17, but his parents refused to sign the necessary papers.) Thus, when he was drafted, it was VJ day by the time he was out of basic training. He spent a fairly easy 18 months in the Army Air Corps before being mustered out. He then got the GI Bill and became the first of his family to graduate from college.

He later said it was a turning point in his life. He'd grown up in a pretty insular working-class environment in the Bronx. He dropped out of high school at 16 to help support his family. But he was assigned to a medical unit in the army and was suddenly surrounded by doctors and nurses, who saw he was smart and told him, when this is over, you go to college. (Of course, he had to finish high school first.) He became an electrical engineer and led his two brothers into the middle class, as well.

He understood full well how lucky he was. If he'd succeeded in joining the Marines, he might have been one of those guys landing on Iwo Jima.