Don’t let their stories fade

The 75th anniversary of D-Day has come and gone.

As our staff was busy compiling news stories for our special coverage of the anniversary, we had the honor of visiting with our World War II veterans, two of whom are D-Day veterans.

One of our own, Jane Carlstrom, told us how her husband, Bill, was rejected from military service — not because he was 4F, a designation that prevented so many Americans from joining the fight — but because he was a farmer. Jane said Bill was livid he couldn’t serve.

Throughout my career, I have had the honor of interviewing veterans who most of us would consider true heroes — Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war, Silver and Bronze star recipients, the list goes on. But they are quick to point out that they are not heroes. They say they were simply men doing their job. The real heroes never came home.

I am the son of a Vietnam veteran, the grandson of WWII veterans, and the great-grandson of WWI veterans. Growing up, my brother and I heard stories of their service during the wars. Thankfully, they all made it home.

My brother, Andy, when he was young, told his friends that Dad got shot in the heart in Vietnam. After all, Dad earned a Purple Heart, not a Purple Foot. Fortunately, Dad was not shot in the heart; rather, he was hit with shrapnel in his foot during a mortar attack. Some of that shrapnel remains in his foot today.

So I took for granted hearing the stories of veterans and their experiences during their service. 

I was surprised to learn how many younger adults did not know about D-Day, when it was, where it was, what all was involved in the world-changing event.

Our high school seniors who just graduated have never known a time in their lives that America has not been in war. Most were born after 9/11, and the Global War on Terrorism has been ongoing ever since.

Sadly, our WWII veterans are almost all gone. Of the 16 million Americans who served during the war, less than 500,000 live today.

So to you, members of the younger generations, find a veteran. Sit down with them and listen to their stories.

To our veterans, tell your stories to those of us younger than you. Don’t let your stories fade. Make us remember your sacrifices and what service truly means. 

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