Day to honor those who served
May 26, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.
Monday is Memorial Day, a time when we reflect upon the sacrifices of those who served our country in the past and are serving today. As we remember our service men and women, we are reminded that each day our U.S. World War II veterans, who once were 16 million strong, are dying at a rate of more than 1,000 a day and the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates they now number about 2.5 million. As their ranks shrink and they leave us, their memories that defined them as the Greatest Generation also pass from us.
The National World War II Museum is one of several organizations rushing to preserve the personal accounts of veterans. Other such efforts are sponsored by the Library of Congress and the U.S. Latino and Latina WWII Oral History Project.
The National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., preserves the memory of America's WWII generation with a Registry of Remembrances, an individual listing of Americans who contributed to the war effort. Any U.S. citizen who helped win the war, whether a veteran or someone on the home front, is eligible for the Registry. The Registry combines four distinct searchable databases of names of those whose service and sacrifice helped win the second world war. Included are the names of Americans who are: Buried in American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC); overseas military cemeteries; Memorialized on ABMC Tablets of the Missing; Listed on official War and Navy Department Killed in Service rosters, now held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); and honored by public enrollment in the Registry of Remembrances. To search the Registry online, go to http://www.wwiimemorial.com/ fill in and click the search link at the top of the page. Names in the Registry forever will be linked to the memorial's bronze and granite representations of their sacrifice and achievement.
Each day, The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall's central axis.
Records tell us these WWII soldiers were a swashbuckling lot - parachuting behind enemy lines, charging onto sandy beaches as bullets whizzed by, liberating countries from a totalitarian grip. They jitterbugged the nights away, sang about faraway sweethearts and painted the noses of their B-17 bombers with bawdy pinups. "They're overpaid, over-sexed and over here," the British groused about their American allies. And now, they're dying off, and with them, the memories that defined what has been called the greatest generation.
"I think that's low now," said Martin Morgan, historian for the World War II Museum in New Orleans of the number of vets dying each day. "But judging by the passing of the World War I veterans, we're predicting they will all be gone by 2020." May their memories forever live on. Happy researching.
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