UNION —The World War II generation has been called “The Greatest Generation” and the most senior members of that generation will be honored during this year’s Union County Veterans Day Program.
World War II began in Asia in 1937 when Japan invaded China while in Europe it began in 1939 when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. It wasn’t until Dec. 7, 1941 that World War II began for America and, it could be argued, the war became a truly global conflict because America, almost alone among the world’s powers, had the ability to truly fight the war in both Europe and Asia.
For America, World War II would last from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 until the Japanese surrendered in a ceremony held aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. Even though it was the last major power to enter the war, America’s entry proved decisive, tipping the balance in favor of the Allies — which included Great Britain, the Republic of China, the Free French, and, after June 20, 1941, the Soviet Union — and against the Axis — which included Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy.
By 1944, America had produced two-thirds of the military equipment used by the Allies, supplying not only its own armed forces with the supplies they needed, but also the armed forces of the other allied powers. Furthermore, America would deploy its armed forces throughout the Americas, the Atlantic, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Western Europe, the Pacific, and Eastern Asia.
America’s armed forces totaled 16 million during World War II, of which 405,399 would be killed in action and 671,278 wounded and 130,201 captured of which 116,129 would survive captivity. The more than 15 million men and women who served in America’s armed forces and lived to return home had, in their lifetimes, already endured the Great Depression. Now, having survived and won the war, they returned home and proceeded to build a postwar America that, in the decades following the war, would be the most powerful, wealthy, successful, and influential global power the world had ever seen, a society that would wage and win the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the last remaining of the World War II era tyrannies.
The Greatest Generation indeed.
Today, in 2017, 72 years after the end of World War II, The Greatest Generation is in its twilight, and before it, like all generations must, passes into eternity, some of its most senior members will be honored at this year’s Union County Veterans Day Program on Friday, Nov. 10.
Union County Veterans Affairs County Services Officer Cindy Fore said that this year, the Veterans Program will honor those living World War II veterans who are 90 years of age or older. Fore said that her office is collecting the names of all local World War II veterans who are in that age group. She said that so far she has collected the names of 15 living World War II veterans of that age group, including two women who were WACs (Women’s Army Corps) during the war, one of whom is 96 years old, the oldest of the veterans who will be honored.
Fore said that each of the veterans will be placed in a seat of honor at the program and each will be publicly recognized and presented with a certificate of recognition and a gift.
Even though 15 veterans have already been identified for recognition during the program, Fore said she is hoping more veterans who qualify and/or their families will contact her so their names can be added to the list of those to be honored.
“We need information so we can add them to our list and make sure we’ve got the necessary seating and the number of certificates and gifts,” Fore said.
Any and all living Union County veterans of World War II ages 90 or older and/or their families are urged to contact the Union County Veterans Affairs Office at 864-429-1605.
The Union County Veterans Day Program will be preceded by the Union County Veterans Day Parade which will begin at approximately 10:30 a.m. at the Union County Courthouse and make its way down Main Street to the Veterans Memorial where the program itself will be held. There will then be pre-service music provided by the Union County High School Chorus. The program will then begin at 11 a.m. and will include:
• Call to Order by Vietnam Veteran Jantzen Childers.
• Invocation delivered by SCARNG (South Carolina Army National Guard), Peacetime, and Gulf War Era Veteran Scott Cobb.
• The Raising of the Service Organization Flags by the Union County High School Junior ROTC.
• The performance of the Star-Spangled Banner by Tyanna Porter, granddaughter of Veteran Charles Lott, Sr., and a Gifted and Talent Chorus student at Union County High School.
• Recognition of Dignitaries by Childers.
• Recognition of Gold Star Mothers Azalee Ashe and Betty Baxley by Childers. (Gold Star Mothers are women who have lost children during wartime.)
• Recognition of Blue Star Families by Childers. (Blue Star Families are families who have a loved one serving in the armed forces).
• Recognition of Korean, Cold War, Persian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, and Peacetime Veterans: Homeland Security Personnel and those currently on Active Duty.
• Recognition of Veterans Service Organizations in Union County: American Legion Post 22, American Legion Post 22 Ladies Auxiliary, American Legion Post 87, American Legion Post 129, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6938, and Vietnam Veterans Chapter 644.
• Placing of the Wreath by Cobb and US Navy and Korean Conflict Veteran Jack Moore.
• 21 Gun Salute by the Union SCARNG.
• Closing Prayer by Vietnam War and US Army Veteran Arthur G. Jordan.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.