Memorial Day: Remembering WW II vets
On Thursday, this newspaper chronicled the journey of nine local World War II veterans who, like so many of their comrades, made their way to the National WWII Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C., for its dedication Saturday.
Their trip, and indeed all of the publicity surrounding the dedication, reminds us of the reality that a generation of great Americans is passing. Nowadays, it is estimated we lose more than 1,000 World War II veterans each day, more than 400,000 a year. Age is catching up with the “Greatest Generation,” and they are dwindling in number.
Memorial Day and the installation of the World War II memorial will preserve their memory for all time, just as the other great Washington memorials – especially the Vietnam Wall – do every year when we recognize soldiers’ sacrifice.
The legacy of World War II, the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, is that free people will not ultimately stand for tyranny. By the end of the war, freedom became the mantra of a whole generation of people, the world over. The war also taught us that freedom is never easy and never free. The 400,000 men who died in battle in Europe and the South Pacific, and the veterans who came home, ensured that freedom would never be taken for granted again in the modern era.
So, as many of us light the barbecue for this “unofficial first day of summer,” at least take a moment to pause, and remember the generation of heroes that is passing, and all of the heroes who came after them, because the world owes them an immeasurable debt of gratitude, even when we lose sight of it in our everyday lives.