Friday, November 11 is Veteran’s Day. I just want to wish all veterans and active military participants a large thank you. The awful Putin war against Ukraine shows that the fight for freedom and democracy is an on-going battle both at home and around the world.
My father Gene and his brothers Ed, Wes, and Vic all served in the Navy during WWII. My father even fought at D Day, June 6, 1944, when more then 160,000 Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied Normandy, France as part of the biggest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. All his brothers and my father have passed; my father at age 94 was the last, passing on February 18, 2020. They are missed, as fewer and fewer of “the Greatest Generation” are left.
Over ten years ago, my father and his brother Wes were able to participate in a wonderful program, called Honor Flight Northern California. After flying to Washington, D.C., the veterans take a bus tour to numerous Washington DC sites, including the Capitol, White House, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, but spend most of their time at the National Veteran War Memorials.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit program comprised of independent Hubs working together to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices by flying these American heroes to Washington, DC at no cost to the veteran. Trained volunteer guardians, who paid their own expenses simply for the honor of serving these American heroes, accompanied them on the trips. Wheelchairs and oxygen are provided as needed.
The WWII Memorial was not dedicated until April 2004, nearly sixty years after the end of the war, therefore, there were many veterans who had not had the opportunity or the resources to see their country’s tribute to their bravery. The veterans of WWII represent a generation whose youngest member is now over 90 years old. With a man’s average life expectancy at 74.4, there are few left each year. Of all the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society.
The History of the Honor Flight Network
Honor Flight Network was initially conceived in 2004 by Earl Morse, a Physician Assistant and Retired Air Force Captain, to honor veterans he has taken care of for the past 27 years. Its sole purpose was to fly veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices.
While originally focused on honoring our nation’s World War II veterans, the Honor Flight Network now also honors those who served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, intermediary operations, and in special cases veterans from more recent service eras with terminal illness or injury. Since its formation in 2005, the Honor Flight Network has taken more than 245,000 veterans to Washington D.C. Today, the Honor Flight Network is currently comprised of over 128 hubs throughout the country dedicated to carrying out the Honor Flight mission and the Network serves over 22,000 veterans each year.
The National Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorial
National Veteran War Memorials are a rather recent event. The first was The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, completed in 1982. It honors U.S. service members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought in the Vietnam War. The memorial currently consists of three separate parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, typeset with 58,175 names of service members who died or were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses. It serves as a reminder of the importance of women in the conflict. It depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. The woman looking up is named Hope, the woman praying is named Faith, and the woman tending to a wounded soldier is named Charity.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war. President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, President of the Republic of Korea, dedicated the memorial to the men and women who served during the conflict.
The National World War II Memorial
The U.S. National World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II.
Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, it is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The northern arch is inscribed with “Atlantic” and northern end of the memorial is dedicated to the Atlantic theater with scenes from European front. Some scenes take place in England, depicting the preparations for air and sea assaults. The last scene is of a handshake between the American and Russian armies when the western and eastern fronts met in Germany.
The southern arch is inscribed with “Pacific” with scenes from the Pacific campaign on the southern side on the memorial. The scenes begin with soon-to-be servicemen getting physical exams, taking the oath, and being issued military gear. The reliefs progress through numerous heroic scenes, including combat and burying the dead, ending in a homecoming scene.
The memorial includes an engraving typical of the Kilroy graffiti: “Kilroy was here.” Kilroy was highly popular American culture expression during WW II, seen drawn anywhere and everywhere. Kilroy is a distinctive doodle of a bald man (possibly with a few hairs) with a prominent nose peeking over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall. My father told me that “Kilroy was here” was seen everywhere and that even pregnant young women could be seen wearing a “Kilroy was here” shirt. He also said that a National Park ranger that he met at the memorial thought it was graffiti when she first saw Kilroy drawn on the marble and was in the process of having him removed when she was informed of his significance.
The Freedom Wall is on the west side of the memorial, with a view of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial behind it. The wall has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall lies the message “Here we mark the price of freedom.”
Will Rogers said it best, “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us must stand on a curb and clap as they go by.” Let us give a huge round of applause for all veterans and ‘The Greatest Generation.’
Any war veteran that is interested in being honored with a trip to Washington D.C. should contact Honor Flight Network.
ENJOY LIFE AND KEEP SMILING!
George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.