It's never really made a lot of sense to me. After all, they were born in the early 20s and old enough to remember the Great Depression and its repercussions on their home life. Both couples met and fell in love - and then said goodbye as my grandfathers went away to war. For my grandmothers it was a time of worrying and waiting, and for my young grandfathers it was a time where they were immediately forced to become men and literally face death in the face. My paternal grandparents narrowly escaped having their son drafted into Vietnam and they both raised teenagers during an era where there was way to much "free-love" going around. Equality for all wasn't a reality.
Yet they've all insisted that they had it the best.
It was the relationships - the time spent talking face-to-face and doing activities together rather than sitting in front of a screen. It was the slower pace of life - a time where work was work and home was home and you didn't have to be driving your kids to 20 different activities all over the place. It was a time where they had confidence in our country and the leaders they voted for. It was a time where their faith was more recognized and respected. It was the value that a man's word had and the strength that words like commitment had. It was the recognition that to get something, you had to work hard, and that success wasn't something you deserved, but something you had to earn.
I do believe there are some great things I could say about my own generation - that we have growing educational opportunities, that we have experienced some incredible technological achievements, that there are greater opportunities for racial and gender equality, etc.
But with all these "improvements" it seems clear to me that some of the basics have been lost. Technology is blocking us (and is having an even greater impact on future generations) from knowing how to effectively communicate with others in simple face-to-face conversations, time spent together is being replaced with an emphasis on achieving individual goals, and all our talk of equality is creating a country that is beginning to tolerate everything and stand for nothing.
It may be impossible to go back in time - but it's not impossible to strive to adopt some of the similar mantras of the pre-baby boomer generation. Whether or not they are actually the "greatest generation" is probably a personal preference :), but there certainly are values and wisdom that we can all learn from those who fought hard, lost much, and lived simpler.