(El Paso Times) Hero is a word tossed about far too often, far too easily. But hero might just be the most accurate description of Father Peter Hinde — a member of that far too quickly vanishing Greatest Generation. These were men who lived through the Great Depression and fought through that frightening time that was World War II. They are men who value honor and love and loyalty and hard work and men who have perfected the trait of being humble. Father Peter, as everyone calls him, lives among the poor in Juarez. Even now, at the tender age of 93, he walks the streets, helps in the parish, ministers to the needs of the poor. Oh, and every Friday — every Friday for the past 18 years — he stands in front of the Federal Court with a small group, holding signs, speaking and working tirelessly, as part of Veterans for Peace.
His life story is an amazing ride through American history. And he has always been in the middle of it all — always an activist, never a spectator.
Chuckling, the slight, personable man, said, ‘I was born in Cleveland because my mother got off the train to give birth. But I grew up in Chicago.’
Now, as we approach the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we reflect on these men, this special generation. History, after all, is so much more than newspapers faded to yellow and old, grainy black and white film. History is time and time is the very real lives of very real, very special people.These men fought their way through the Great Depression. And then, on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and lives changed all over the world.
Father Peter was no different. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and became a fighter pilot. But he is part of this special generation and being humble is a part of their code. They do not pound their own chests.
‘I didn’t do much,’ he said. ‘I was just doing my job like everyone else.’
But he remembers one flight and one unforgettablesight. ‘I flew over Nagasaki three days after the bomb,’ he said. ‘I saw where Nagasaki used to be. I was on a flight up to Korea to intercept some Japanese fighters. At that time, I was just on a mission and it really didn’t leave that much of an impression. I woke up later. I woke up after I met some Japanese survivors.’
Father Peter is almost a tour guide through American history. He entered the seminary in 1946, just after the war. He was ordained as a priest in 1952 and he has been working tirelessly — hard work, remember, is a co-pilot for the Greatest Generation — for the poor, the underprivileged, the men and women and children with hearts and souls and dreams but no voice.