By: FROM THE HILL TO THE MOUNTAINS: A WEEKLY COLUMN BY U.S. SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.)
May 21, 2013
I am filled with so much pride every time I meet our military veterans. They remind us just how patriotic West Virginia is. We are a state of people with courage, nobility and valor.
This week, I met with 31 veterans from West Virginia, representing three generations of warriors, who came to the nation’s capital to see the memorials that commemorate their sacrifice and courage.
I am so deeply grateful to these special Americans who helped keep this nation free and made the world safer for liberty-loving people across our country and beyond our borders.
I also am grateful to the Honor Flight Network, which arranges for World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans from all over America to visit the memorials in Washington – free of any cost to the veterans.
In West Virginia, the driving forces behind the Honor Flight Network are the Denver Foundation and Little Buddy Radio in Princeton. They have arranged three Honor Flights for West Virginia veterans so far, and I look forward to many more.
The veterans I met this week ranged in age from 63 to 94. And while their step has slowed, their spirit is keen, their pride is undiminished, and their patriotism is unbridled.
These brave West Virginians served this great country in a wide variety of ways – as a B-24 pilot over Italy in World War II; in a heavy mortar company at “Heartbreak Ridge” in Korea; as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam.
They stitched up wounds in hospitals; they assembled bombs; they inspected combat aircraft; they operated radios and radars; they cooked; and they built roads through jungles and bridges over rivers.
They won the Bronze Star, the Soldier’s Medal, the Purple Heart and Presidential Citations. Some were lieutenants, some sergeants, some corporals. Some served abroad, some stateside. But every one of them answered this country’s call in its time of need.
These heroic West Virginians came to Washington to tour our beautiful Capitol, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. But this tour included a special “Flags of Our Heroes” ceremony to honor World War II veterans who passed away before they could visit the memorial commemorating their service. Sadly, we are losing World War II veterans at the rate of approximately 800 per day – members of what we have come to recognize, and rightly so, as the “Greatest Generation.”
This generation of Americans was united by a common purpose and by common values – duty, honor, courage, service, integrity, love of family and country. And their triumph over tyranny will be remembered forever.
This Memorial Day, when we honor all of America’s fallen warriors, let us offer a special salute to the “Greatest Generation” of warriors who inspire us still with the physical and moral courage that made them heroes.
May it ever be so, and may God always bless the United States of America and all the men and women who keep Her free.