Published in the Nov-Dec 2013 issue of MyLIFE magazine
November 11 is the day we honor brave Americans who served in our armed forces. Veterans Day became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11. Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).
But have we as a society forgotten those who served our country more than half a century ago? I hope not! World War II veterans are dying at a rate of about 650 a day. Most of them are well into their 80s and 90s. These are grim statistics that serve as a powerful reminder: We must do everything we can to honor these individuals and let them know we’re aware of the courageous acts they performed during extraordinary times.
In 2007, there were about 2.9 million World War II veterans living in the United States—a number that has fallen to 1.5 million just six years later. That’s about one tenth of the 16.1 million Americans who served in the war.
When these veterans returned home, many had no parades, no hero’s welcome and few thank-yous. But most of them didn’t mind. In fact, when you talk to them, many will tell you that they don’t want the acknowledgement—even when you thank them for their service and call them heroes. They don’t want to talk about it. They will tell you that the real heroes are the ones who perished “over there”—in France, Iwo Jima, Bastogne, Pearl Harbor or Germany—the infantry, airborne, cavalry, armored and mountain divisions. They are selfless individuals who were a product of their generation—a generation that journalist Tom Brokaw referred to as the “Greatest Generation”—ordinary Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and answered the call to fight in World War II, then came back and built the world’s most prosperous society and elevated the United States to superpower status.
Take a minute to honor America’s Greatest Generation as you view the pictures below. Reflect on the countless battles they encountered, their incredible resilience and resolve, and their courageous fighting spirit against tyranny over oppressed people around the world. May their incredible valor be an inspiration to future generations and never, ever be forgotten.
[flagallery gid=6 name=”World War II”]