Kaptur: Heroes among usWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
A ceremony in our nation’s capital on May 24 will mark the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
The memorial, of course, is a testament to the vision and determination of a humble man from Berkey. Roger Durbin was an Army veteran who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, played his role in the victory effort, and then returned home to his family and his community with no fanfare.
He was a seemingly ordinary man, a rural mail carrier — but a man with a big dream. His postwar mission was to correct an oversight — the lack of a memorial to the victory over tyranny. Although Roger Durbin never saw the World War II Memorial — he died in 2000 — his family did. And his granddaughter, Melissa Durbin, will participate in the celebration.
A decade has passed since President George W. Bush formally dedicated the memorial to everyone who participated, overseas and stateside, in the war effort. But since that day in May 2004, the National World War II Memorial has become one of the most popular tourist attractions among the many sites in our nation’s capital. It has been the destination for dozens of Honor Flights from around the country, allowing veterans to see the memorial to their accomplishments and for millions of individual tourists on the National Mall who come to pay homage.
Something remarkable happens every single day at the memorial: The beneficiaries of that great victory get the chance to meet these aging warriors from the Greatest Generation. Every day, without fail, people come up to visiting veterans, now in their 90s and many now in wheelchairs, simply to say “thank you.” It is touching in its own right to see people whose main experience of World War II has been to study it in school or see it portrayed on television get the opportunity not only to see the memorial, but also to meet real, live heroes.
But that will not always hold true. When we dedicated the memorial in 2004, more than 4 million of the 16 million American veterans of World War II were still alive. Today, fewer than a million remain. We lose more than 500 of them every day. And 10 years from now, at the 20th anniversary ceremony, only 80,000, roughly, will survive.
At the memorial, what President Abraham Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory” are played with grandeur and grace. And that is what the memorial is all about. It was built to preserve:
- The memory of gallantry and devotion, of honor and sacrifice, of dedication to a cause bigger than oneself.
- The memory of a generation of ordinary Americans who did something extraordinary — answered duty’s call, saved democracy and then modestly returned to their communities and their families, to work in the factory, to work on the farm … or simply to carry the mail.
- The National World War II Memorial will be there long after the World War II veterans are gone. While they are still with us, take the opportunity to let them know that a grateful nation will always pay tribute to their courageous service and they will always be remembered as heroes.
Marcy Kaptur (D) is the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District. She has served since 1983. Her Toledo office phone number is (419) 259-7500.