Their numbers are dwindling rapidly, and before many more years pass the last will be gone.
And as a nation we will be poorer for it.
The veterans of World War II truly are a unique group in the United States, the likes of which we will never see again in this country.
One of that group was honored in Cumming last week, when Johnson W. “Dub” Brown was presented long overdue medals in recognition of his service under fire nearly 70 years ago.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves was on hand to present the medals and ribbons to Brown, a veteran of the historic assault on Omaha Beach.
Like many of those who served with valor, honor and distinction in World War II, Brown, according to his family, seldom talked of his exploits in the war. It fell to family members to start the effort that eight years later resulted in his belated recognition by the country he served so well.
Last week’s ceremony served as a reminder of a military conflict the likes of which many of us have a hard time imagining, a war that saw some 16 million U.S. veterans serve, with fewer than 2 million still alive today.
As Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman famously noted, “War is hell,” and that has never been more obvious than during World War II, the deadliest conflict in the history of the world.
Estimates are that 60 million or more people were killed as a result of the war, in which 61 countries were involved.
Warfare has changed much over the decades, and it is unlikely we will ever again see a commitment of manpower to battlefields like those on the campaigns of World War II.
The names of the battles are etched in our national memory; the images of American troops as much a part of our heritage as the American flag.
They were the greatest of the “Greatest Generation,” and far too many of them never returned home from the foreign countries to which they were sent.
It is impossible to overstate the debt owed to those who served in World War II, and it was nice last week to see one of those who did get the recognition he deserved.
The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Dub Browns of the world that can never be repaid.