Much of the media’s attention lately has been on last week's elections, and rightly so. But let’s not forget we’ve slipped into November and that next yesterday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day. It’s one of those holidays I know I’m guilty of not paying close enough attention to, even though I certainly should. As the WWII generation ages and leaves us, I think many of us tend to forget what a gift they gave us through their service. Here are a few numbers to help put it in perspective:
- 16.1 million Americans served in WWII, with an average time of serving overseas of 16 months
- An estimated 292,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were killed in battle during WWII
- A total of 405,000 U.S. military servicemen died in WWII, either during or outside of battle
- One great-uncle served under Patten in WWI. He drove a tank and carried shrapnel in his skull for the rest of his life (which was long-lived, fortunately).
- Another great-uncle was taken as a German prisoner of war during WWI. He was in the prison camp at the same time his brother was in an English hospital recovering from the shrapnel wounds.
- My godfather participated in the D-Day campaign.
- Several other men in the church where I grew up were also WWII veterans. I don’t know all of their stories, partly because most of them never wanted to talk about it. But I always knew they were heroes.
- One of my uncles was career Navy. Another served his Navy time in Ireland.
- My dad is a Coast Guard veteran; my father-in-law was an Air Force veteran. Several other friends – or immediate relatives of friends – served in peacetime or were part of the campaigns associated with Desert Storm.