My grandfather was still my hero well before I knew this part of his history, a history I was required to discover for a high school paper on the subject. It was not something he shared freely. For one thing, his modesty kept him quiet about it, but also the darkness of those days was something he understandably had little desire to revisit, much less expose to his young granddaughter.
But knowing what he had witnessed, what he overcame, what he endured, what he survived — all of these things made my grandfather that much more extraordinary in my eyes.
Years later, I found myself learning more incredible war stories from the residents in retirement communities where I worked. Women who worked as spies, men who watched their friends die beside them.
But men and women like my grandfather and those residents will not be with us for much longer.
Well aware of this fact (to be exact, a WWII veteran dies every 90 seconds), leaders of the Spirit of ’45 Campaign were driven to collect as many images of the men and women who served so that they would be preserved for future generations.
With Veterans Day just around the corner, it is a fitting time to honor the heritage of these heroes and heroines, and a good reminder to celebrate their victories and thank them for their sacrifices year-round.
I recently spoke with Linda Laurie, National Events Coordinator for the Spirit of ’45 Campaign, about the many activities that have already taken place across the country around this important era of history. She was also excited to share glimpses of the exciting events in store for the coming year.
In addition to these anticipated celebrations, the campaign has exciting quarterly projects, starting with a collection of WWII military photos that can be used in a number of ways.
World War II veterans and family members nationwide are encouraged to scan photos from their time of service and send them to the Spirit of ’45 site for inclusion in a state-by-state Wall of Honor banner (some senior living communities are already working on these banners as well). Once the pictures are uploaded to the site, they will automatically go to the place where the banners are being produced. These beautiful banners, some of which are 50 feet in length, will be displayed on the steps of each of the state capitols next August.
Most importantly, as another year of exciting opportunities to preserve the memories of the greatest generation unfolds, Laurie and her Spirit of ’45 colleagues are thrilled that Congress passed a bill to establish Spirit of ’45 Day every second Sunday in August, dedicating time to “remember the service, sacrifices and ‘can do spirit’ of the men and women who served in WWII. Their examples will continue to inspire the present generation to deal with today’s world problems,” says Laurie.
All of these meaningful activities, both large- and small-scale, have also touched veterans deeply. Says Laurie, “After an event, so many vets say, ‘Now I know why I went to war; now I know why it was worth it. No one ever thanked me for serving.’”
What an incredible testament to the power of connecting generations, of learning from each other, of getting involved in our communities and inspiring one another to create the world we want to live in. Who will you honor and remember today?
Please visit www.spiritof45.org for further information.