World War II veterans deserve honor, respect

June 10, 2014

By Kathleen R. Merrill

A special thanks to those who turned out for the D-Day ceremony at Veterans’ Memorial Field on June 6.

People were thrilled to see three P-51 Mustangs soar over the field twice, coming lower the second time to give people a closer look at the intricately painted planes.

There were more than 50 veterans in attendance, many from World War II. Several of them had tears in their eyes as they watched the planes.

Kathleen R. Merrill Press managing editor

Kathleen R. Merrill
Press managing editor

I was glad to see Liberty High School Reserve Officers Training Corps students at the event, escorting veterans to their seats and asking questions about their service. But I worry that young people are starting to forget — or don’t even know about — the important sacrifices of those who came before them.

World War II was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units; about 16 million Americans served during WWII, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sadly, an estimated 640 World War II veterans die each day, according to the department.

That’s one reason the Honor Flight Network is taking World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the National WWII Memorial.

“Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the American people,” according to the memorial’s website.

The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004, after an 11-year effort and 65 years after the war.

Its goal is to “inspire future generations of Americans, deepening their appreciation of what the World War II generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy.”

Honor Flight takes veterans to D.C. to visit their memorials. The trips are free of charge to veterans. The organization is focusing on World War II and terminally ill veterans. You can help the organization complete its mission by donating to the cause at www.honorflight.org/donate-now. All donations are tax-deductible.

Honor Flight calls WWII veterans “conquering victors that collectively and literally saved the world. To this day, most of Europe is free, most of the Pacific is free and America is free. This freedom came at a very high cost. We can never repay them for what they’ve done.”

To get a real idea of some of the price paid by these brave men and women, check out the project The Fallen 9000 at http://thefallen9000.info. The photos there are amazing and give you some real perspective of just one battle.

Learn more about World War II and its veterans from The National World War II Museum at www.nationalww2museum.org or from the National WWII Memorial at www.wwiimemorial.com. Learn more about the Honor Flight Network at www.honorflight.org.

Will Rogers said, according to the Honor Flight Network’s website: “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”

I hope future generations will be there on the curb, even after the heroes are gone.

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