Our WWII veterans are the ‘soul of our democracy’

Tue, 05/20/2008 - 4:05pm
By: Letters to the ...

I am so happy to see that these veterans will get to visit their monument, their memorial to the valor they displayed on so many battlefields. They are the true monuments to World War II; they are the soul of our democracy.

I think of the many veterans of that terrible time who I have had the honor to hear their stories. Sometimes it was a pleasure, sometimes it was the sad remembrance of what war really is.

There is Albert Knight, a sailor aboard the USS Gainard, watching as a Japanese kamikaze slams into USS Drexler off Okinawa. Within a minute she is gone, with over 100 of her crew with her, a photo etched in Albert’s memory for the rest of his life.

Sailors like him lived that picket duty for days on end off Okinawa, waiting for that sound of general quarters.

There was Dori Miller, a young African-American sailor, who on Dec. 7, 1941, as the USS West Virginia sank in the harbor bottom beneath his feet, shot down Japanese aircraft as they pressed home their attacks on Battleship Row. It did not matter that he was a ships cook, and that the order had been given to abandon ship. He stuck to his guns, a Navy Cross as his reward.

The stories are endless of their valor, but locked away in that special place in their heart and memory, some not sure if they would even be believed. This world will never see their like again, for even now their ranks grow thin.

But look in that wrinkled face that looks so kind and caring and lightens up when you say, “Grandpa”; 60 years ago that was the face of a warrior, the defender of our nation.

Look close; you will still see those bright eyes of another time. Those are the eyes of every soldier, sailor, marine, army pilot, and every other branch of our military service. Man or woman, black or white, military or civilian war worker, you are looking at our World War II heroes, our monuments to freedom.

Terry Smallwood


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