In 1945, there were sixteen million of them. Today, there are less than 500,000 left.
They endured the hardships of the Depression. They watched firsthand as radio, talking pictures, and television changed how we live. They witnessed the dawn of the Space Age.
And, of course, they fought to free the world from the evil grip of fascism.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed who I’m referring to:
The American veterans of World War II.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were only 496,777 veterans left in 2018 – and approximately 348 die every day.1 That means every day, a little bit of courage, valor, determination, and sacrifice leaves the world forever. Every day, the sights, sounds, and smells of Pearl Harbor, Midway, Iwo Jima, Sicily, Omaha Beach, Bastogne, and a hundred other tragedies and triumphs disappear from living memory.
But the world will never forget what they did there.
They slogged in trenches and stormed beachheads. They parachuted from planes and plumbed the ocean’s depths in submarines. They built bridges, broke codes, and brought food to desperate, war-wracked villages. They liberated countries and concentration camps.
Why did they do it? Why did they go, leaving their families, jobs, and futures? Not because they were paid lots of money or promised great rewards. For most, it wasn’t even because they or their loved ones were in any real danger.
They went because it was the right thing to do.
They truly are the Greatest Generation. And now, they are almost gone.
But this is why we have days like Veterans Day. While November is usually dominated by thoughts of turkey, family, and football, we really have two Thanksgivings this month. There’s the more famous one, sure, and it’s important, too.
But we also have an earlier Thanksgiving. A day to give thanks for one of the most important things in our country – our veterans.
Now, Veterans Day is for all living veterans, not just those who served in World War II. But, since we don’t have much time left with the men and women who served in that epic conflict, I think it’s important to do all we can to honor and help them before they’re gone.
Fortunately, there are many ways we can serve those who served our country. We can share our money, our talents, and our time by:
- Volunteering at veterans’ hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics.
- Working with Local Veterans Assistance Programs to run errands or do housework.
- Donating funds to various charity organizations that serve veterans.
Even something as simple as delivering a homemade card, heartfelt thank you letter, or batch of cookies can make a real difference.
If you’re interested, here are two websites to get you started:
It’s no exaggeration to say the world we know, the country we live in, and the freedoms we enjoy would all be drastically different were it not for those who served in the second World War. So, this Veterans Day, I hope we all can remember to give thanks for our veterans.
There were sixteen million of them once. All serving so that uncountable millions more would live free from tyranny. Now, they are almost gone – and it’s up to us to ensure that what they accomplished lives on forever.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
I wish you a happy Veterans Day!