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Honor without the expectation of homage

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By Brad Bowman

In this week’s issue, you’ll see I had the honor of interviewing several World War II veterans. I didn’t have a chance to interview each of them personally and I hope to do so in the weeks leading up to New Castle’s Spring Fling Festival where they will be honored.

They tell their stories humbly and the anecdotes truly are movie material. One gentleman took out three German tanks after his tank commander and driver sustained injuries. He drove the tank and fired the gun and the two remaining German tanks fled the field.

A radio operator flew over the ‘hump’ the Himalayan Mountains in the India, Burma, China Theater of WWII and was shot down at night with his crew. They walked through the Japanese jungle with an injured soldier and made it back to an American air base after more than 20 days.

One gentleman lied about his age at 15 just so he could go and fight in the war. When he came back, he had to lie about his age again so he could get married. He fought along side Russian soldiers before he was 20.

Eyewitness accounts of such historical events will soon be lost to us just as the Greatest Generation, deemed so by Tom Brokaw, leaves us with an example of people we most desperately need during our present time of war and economic depression. 

This Greatest Generation of WWII veterans that I sat down with expected no salute of gratitude or asked for a thank you they most rightfully deserve.

Their patriotism, passion and perseverance during one of the nation’s most difficult times remains hidden and dignified on their faces. I heard dedication and duty in the retelling of their accounts in service. Overwhelmingly, those accounts lacked any sense of entitlement—something I wish our less-than-great generations would lose.