Lest we forget – Revised 5/24/08, 5/20/14 and 5/26/17
Although Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, I would also like to remind you not to forget those who are still with us.
When I first published this article the current death rate for World War II veterans was about 1,000 per day and based on the latest data about 1800 a day for all veterans. At this rate it will not be to long before only a very few will still be with us. As of May of 2014 simple math shows that even a veteran who was only 17 years old at the end of the WWII would now be 88 or 89 and a 30 year old would be over 100 years old. As of 2016 only slightly more than 600,000 WWII remain alive.
Korean War veterans are now in their 80’s and Vietnam vets are not all that young anymore either.
My father died more than 18 years ago and he was the last surviving member of his outfit, he did not talk too much about the war and from pictures and a few conversations I always though he held the rank of Corporal but it turns out that he was a Sergeant, something I did not know until after he passed away. One of the few things he did enjoy was the annual reunion which he attended nearly every year for a good number of years until his health no longer allowed him to do so.
About 6 years ago I had an opportunity to call a long lost cousin who served in the Korean War. His nick name as “Sunny” and whenever he stopped by the house I lived in when I was only about 6 years old, he would open the side door, stick his head out with a big grin on his face. This was a signal that we were going to have fun. When he came back from the war he was a changed man, the grin was gone and to me he seemed like a stranger. Sunny move away and I lost touch. About 50 years later I had the opportunity to call him but I was afraid he would not remember me, so I never called. He passed away about 4 years ago and now I am forever sorry I never at least tried to reach out.
So if you have a family member or know a friend who served now might be a good time to call or sit down and talk to them about their experiences if they care to do so. It just may be the last chance you have.