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Laconia
05-01-2011, 06:21 PM
Some 7 years ago this month, on 29 May 2004, the U.S. World War 2 Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. As the son of a World War 2 veteran, I had the great opportunity to attend this event with my father. At that time I had written down my experiences of that day. The following is an account of that great and glorious event.

On this past Memorial Day weekend, I had the distinct honor of accompaning my father, an 81 year old WW2 Navy veteran and tens of thousands of other veterans (of all eras) to the dedication of the new WW2 Memorial in Washington, D.C.

It all started at 0530 that morning when my father awoke, making all the noise that he could (to make sure I was awake) so that we wouldn't miss the chartered bus that was to take us to the event. At 0730, we headed out to the local shopping center where we would get on the bus for the 1 hour ride from western Maryland to the nation's capitol. When we arrived at the pick up point there were alresdy several veterans milling around. They were easy to spot - men in their 80's wearing caps that said things like the; Military Order of the Purple Heart, the 2nd Armoured Div, 495th Bomber Sq, the 101st Airborne Div, and several men that had their Combat Infantryman's badges pinned to their caps. Standing before me were men who in their youth had landed on the beaches of far flung Pacific islands, waged warfare on the open Atlantic, gave battle in the air, and drove across the European landmass to free the oppressed. I was certainly in honored company!

After an uneventful trip to our nation's capitol, we arrived and were seated in section 1, about 400 yards from the stage. Though it was too far to see clearly, there were large monitors set all around us where the ceremonies could be easily viewed. After getting settled in, I grabbed my camera and started to walk around to see and photograph as many of these brave men as I could. I was taking in everything, experiencing the moment, knowing full well that such a gathering would never take place again.

Upon leaving my seat, I started walking towards a clump of trees directly to the rear of where we were sitting. After making my way through the crowd, a solitary man sitting in a wheelchair and wearing Marine dress blues caught my eye. He was sitting ramrod straight, as proud as ever, this brave man who fought so many years ago. I knew I just had to talk to him. As I slowly walked in his direction I asked myself; "What in the hell am I going to say"? As I got within 2 feet of him I looked him in the eyes and held out my hand. He grabbed it firmly in his and then I said; "It's an honor to meet you sir! I am in awe of men like you and what you did for us back then". Well, that broke the ice and we talked for a few minutes. He told me where he fought (Okinawa), what he did (flame thrower operator) and how his own brother was killed during the battle. What could I say? I just nodded silently to his words and after a few more moments again extended my hand in parting and slowly walked away from this fine American warrior.

During that day I met and talked with some of the men who had fought in the battles I had only known about through the history books. Some had flown in bombers over Europe. One man had completed his 30 missions and returned home safely. Another had been shot down and taken prisoner - to be eventually liberated by the Russians. Another man had been the company commander of a graves registration unit and he was so proud that they were able to identify every body they came across. He was also severely wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. I met 2 men who were soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, those Americans of Japanese heritage who served their country proudly. There was the Navajo Indian, a code talker with the 4th Marines on Iwo Jima and Saipan. I talked to a Mr. Johnny Crocker, now 84 years old, a black soldier who drove a truck on the famed "Red Ball" express. There was also a former Navy Ltjg, who witnessed the Japanese surrender abourd the USS Missouri. And my own father, a veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees, who helped in the drive across the South Pacific and eventually ended up at wars end in China

I'll never forget that day. Tears welled up in my eyes as men in wheelchairs struggled to stand as taps were played to honor those who had fallen. To see all those brave men who had fought for our freedom so long ago together in such large numbers was truly an historic event.

Some of the photo's from that day. Left to right: Navajo Marine, Okinawa Marine, 442nd Niesei members, Paratrooper, a C-47, and my Dad in his Seabee uniform.

flyerhell
05-01-2011, 07:56 PM
Great story! Thanks for sharing.

flamethrowerguy
05-02-2011, 05:06 AM
Thanks for sharing, Laconia.
I'd wish something similar would be possible in Germany.

Laconia
05-02-2011, 08:40 AM
Thanks for sharing, Laconia.
I'd wish something similar would be possible in Germany.

It was a long time in coming for us here in America for sure. Think of it, it was 60 years before those WW2 veterans were recognized as a group. It was a shame that so many veterans had died before this came about. I'm glad my Dad was still around so he could attend. He's still here by the way, 88 and still kicking. At least in Germany your veterans have their ex-servicemen's organizations, right? I've met a few here. When I was in high school, my girlfriend's father had been in the Wehrmacht. And there were a few who worked at the same place as my father. I bet those guys had some interesting conversations. I remember one time my father told me that two guys who worked there had fought against each other at the Battle of the Bulge.

skorzeny57
05-02-2011, 02:10 PM
Thanx for sharing with us your precious experience, Laconia. You've been able to convey the same emotions and feelings, that you felt that day... Like FTG said, i'd wish to see this kind of respect and consideration for Veterans, here in Italy, too. But , unfortunately, in this Country people have different mind... Thanx for the nice pics, too.

flamethrowerguy
05-02-2011, 03:54 PM
At least in Germany your veterans have their ex-servicemen's organizations, right?

They do or better they did - when there were vets left in numbers that allowed to run such an organisation. Today however every meeting of German WW2 vets would probably cause a demonstration by the good citizens of ours including massive police interventions...