Remembering WWII vets

Sep. 17, 2013 @ 02:36 PM

When Japan’s surrender August 14, 1945, ended World War II, roughly 16 million Americans were veterans of that brutal war.

But the passage of time is irreversible, and today that number stands at something more than 1 million, according to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. And every day that numbers drop by more than 600.

As the website of the National World War II Museum so poignantly puts it:

“Approximately every two minutes a memory of World War II – its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs – disappears. Yielding to the inalterable process of aging, the men and women who fought and won the great conflict are now in their 80s and 90s. They are dying quickly…”

Keeping those memories alive – and honoring those who hold them, and the memory of their colleagues who have died – is important to the Friendly City Civitan Club. The civic club held its annual veteran’s appreciation luncheon Monday, and dozens of area veterans attended.

“We’ve got a lot of older folks here who are really enjoying themselves,” said WWII vet John Umstead. 

Civitan officers made it a point of praising the members of the “greatest generation” who were there.  As The Herald-Sun’s Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan reported, Marlene Jewell, governor-elect of the North Carolina District East Civitan, noted that part of the Civitan creed is to make the world a better place. “The world is a better place because of you guys,” she told the veterans.

Bill Richardson, the current district governor, echoed that, saying “they saw the face of evil and defeated it worldwide.”

The luncheon itself was a reminder that the generation is passing from the stage.  Two regular attendees in the past have died since last year’s luncheon – Marine veteran Bobby Lougee and Army veteran Bob Patton.

The Civitan member who launched the luncheon also died in the past year, and in his honor the luncheon is now named Steve Brosnan’s Veterans Appreciation Luncheon.

Sadly, in all likelihood at least one or two of the veterans enjoying this week’s luncheon attended their last.

A dwindling few veterans will be around for years to come.  The Veterans Administration predicts that there will be no more surviving World War II veterans by 2036, but that’s more than two decades off. The last World War I U. S. veteran died just two years ago, 93 years after the war’s end.

But no doubt as the veterans’ numbers shrink, it will become increasingly hard for the nation to remember and to honor them. And their sacrifice – and that of millions of others in the Allied nations – altered the course of history for the better.

The Civitans are to be commended, not just for honoring the veterans, but for reminding the rest of us of all that their service meant.