We’re running out of time to say thank you to our World War II veterans

California

They are in the December of their years now, and time is running out for us to say goodbye and godspeed to the veterans of World War II. We owe them so much.

Of the 16.1 million Americans who served in World War II, less than 120,000 are still with us, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re all in their 90s and older.

Each day, another 131 die. By this time next year, 48,000 more will have moved on to Memorial Day in our thoughts.

While they’re still with us we need to make every effort to thank them for their bravery and resolve — for answering the call and standing up to a bully bent on killing and destroying anything and anyone in his quest for total world domination.

Without our World War II veterans there would be only one country in the world today, and it wouldn’t be called America.

But, Hitler didn’t win, we did — thanks to them and all the Rosie the Riveters, Women’s Air Force Service pilots, and volunteers who had their backs at home.

Is there any doubt they are our Greatest Generation? None.

Today we honor all our veterans, but the World War II vets hold a special place in our hearts.

America was still so young, so vulnerable when they were asked to protect her. They didn’t blink or ask why. They knew the stakes were high.

They were fighting for freedom, for their children and grandchildren’s futures.

There’s no rewriting or editing that history. No hiding it. At least, I thought so.

“How many children know why they’re getting Friday off from school this week?” Ed Reynolds asked when I called him last week to see what his veterans group, Wings Over Wendy’s was doing this Veterans Day.

They started more than 20 years ago with a handful of local World War II pilots, engineers and bombardiers meeting for lunch every Monday at a Wendy’s in West Hills.

Wings Over Wendy's members wave to spectators during the 21st Annual Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade in Canoga Park CA Monday May 25, 2009. The parade included vintage airplane fly overs, equestrians, marching units and antique cars. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)
Wings Over Wendy’s members wave to spectators during the 21st Annual Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade in Canoga Park CA Monday May 25, 2009. The parade included vintage airplane fly overs, equestrians, marching units and antique cars. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Today, all veterans and their families are invited to join them on Monday mornings for coffee and some camaraderie. If you want to meet a World War II veteran or Rosie the Riveter, they’ll be there. For more information, go to the group’s website wingsoverwendys.com

They have a float in the San Fernando Valley Veterans Day parade today, and were invited by service clubs to stop by afterwards for some potluck, but the invitations they really wanted never came.

“We used to have 11 schools in the Valley inviting us to talk at Veterans Day assemblies, this year we had four,” said Reynolds, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Four schools. Embarrassing.

What are the others afraid of? The subject matter? That sometimes you have to fight for freedom? That’s going to upset these middle and high school kids? Give me a break.

Kids today live in a world of violence. They can handle an hour of veterans talking about D-Day and Pearl Harbor.

They can handle stories of courage, honor and respect.

I’ve seen dozens of kids cry in those assemblies and stand in line afterwards just for the chance to shake a veteran’s hand and say thank you.

Their grandpa served. Their grandma worked at Lockheed.

They can handle it, just give them the chance.

The Los Angeles Unified School District should be sending limos for these men on Veterans Day, not letting school principals cancel their assemblies.

These men may be in the December of their years, but many are still willing and able to serve. Give them the chance.

Let them teach our kids why they got Friday, Nov. 10 off from school.

Have a great Veterans Day. Give a veteran a hug.

Dennis McCarthy can be reached at dmccarthynews.com.

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