On August 15, 1945 (August 14 in the United States), Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies, thus ending World War II. The war had taken a terrible toll: 60 million people were killed between 1939 and 1945, 25 million of whom were in uniform (History Channel). 16 million men and women served in the American military over the course of the war, and more 400,000 of them gave the ultimate sacrifice (WWII mem).
After a wait of nearly 59 years, those who served our country in WWII were finally honored with the dedication of the National World War II Memorial, now beautifully situated on the mall in Washington, D.C. It is a somber but inspiring tribute to an entire generation who willingly joined to preserve our liberties against ruthless and cabable foes. In many cases, they didn’t know where they would go, or when they would return – many never did. But join up they did.
If you talk to World War II veterans, they will inevitably brush off any praise or mention of heroism. They’ll dismiss what they did with phrases like, “I was just doing my job,” or, “Everybody joined up, so I did too.” Don’t believe it for a minute. Sure, they had a job to do, and they did it well. Sure, a lot of Americans joined up. But each of them made a private and individual decision to go, risking everything to preserve the American way of life.
There is no way to sufficiently thank our WWII veterans for their sacrifices on our behalf. The WWII memorial is a good start. Giving them a firm handshake and saying, “Thanks for your service,” goes a long way too.
They’ve been called the Greatest Generation. For many of us, they have also been called dad, or mom, or grandpa. Whatever you call the veterans of WWII, they are all heroes.