WWII Vets Honored at 60th Anniversary of War's End
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2005 Veterans of World War II gathered with military, political and diplomatic leaders and the public to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the war's end Sept. 2 at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall here.
August Offer and Roberta Mahan, both 88, dance to the music of the U.S. Navy Band at the World War II 60th Anniversary Commemoration Sept. 2 at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Offer, a World War II veteran who served in the Army Air Corps for two years, and Mahan are engaged. DoD photo by Sgt. Sara Wood
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hosted the event, and military leaders from every branch of service as well as other countries attended, along with diplomatic representatives from more than 50 countries.
In his speech, Rumsfeld thanked the veterans for their service, saying that all the young Americans who fought in World War II played an important role in history.
"With faith, they entered a fierce and blinding storm, and from their blood and sacrifice, the world was made anew," he said.
It's hard for anyone of this generation to fully understand what this anniversary means to the veterans who experienced it firsthand 60 years ago, Rumsfeld said, but he pledged that this country will never forget the sacrifices they made or the lessons they learned.
"As long as we have freedom and as long as our flag still waves, our country will honor you," he told the veterans. "With civilization again in peril, we pledge to remember those lessons forged amid the tumult and triumph of that world war, and we pledge to ensure the survival of the freedoms entrusted to us."
Retired Army Gen. John W. Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a World War II veteran himself, called World War II the defining event of the 20th century.
Allied victory in the war unleashed unprecedented forces for political, economic and social change, Vessey said. Veterans who returned to America revitalized the country by attending colleges and universities, building new homes and businesses, sparking a technological revolution and providing political leadership, he said
"Today, both the hairlines and the ranks of the World War II veterans are thinning rapidly," he said. "We know that whatever we accomplished was built on the foundation our forebearers had laid for this great nation."
Vessey said he hopes the men and women who fought in the war won't be forgotten and that lessons learned during the largest and costliest war in history will live on and be taught to future generations.
"We hope that this memorial will be a perpetual reminder of the blood and sweat that our generation contributed," he said.
Veterans at the ceremony were treated to performances by the U.S. Navy Band and its vocal chorus, the Sea Chanters, as well as the Liberty Belles, a United Service Organizations 1940s-style troupe. Vessey and Rumsfeld then laid a wreath at the memorial's Field of Stars, which honors all those killed in World War II. Fireworks followed the ceremony.