Honoring our heroes

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Last Thursday at the University of Richmond, Virginia kicked off the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of America joining the Allies in World War II. In person were 97 of those who served during the war. Others gathered at sites around the state and the event was beamed into those locations such as McGuire VA Hospital and the South Boston Armory. The evening before, another nine veterans were honored in a service in Crewe. Three of those in attendance were from South Hill. Others from the region may have been there, but I did not meet them.

Rick Atkinson — Pulitzer Prize winner, historian and author of “Liberation Trilogy,” a narrative history of America’s role in the war — was the featured speaker. His method of bringing to life events of the war was most appreciated by veterans and all in attendance. He spoke not just of the big picture, but broke it down to make it more understandable. He spoke of the war being the greatest loss of life in history with the death of 60 million people. He explained that equated to one death every three seconds. Mr. Atkinson then counted one, two, three and snapped his fingers and repeated that to focus on that rate of death.

Among the things Mr. Atkinson profiled was the base in Kansas that started an office of six people to handle the personal items of our soldiers and sailors who lost their lives. It quickly grew to more than a thousand as the deaths mounted. He spoke of how they carefully dealt with every item to avoid returning something that would disturb the family. Before returning them, they carefully removed blood from uniforms, worked out dents from items that might have come from bullets or shrapnel. Over and over, he presented detail after riveting detail from the planning of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the fight for Okinawa. His words were moving.

It is truly my honor to serve as vice chairman of the commission, but it was a greater honor to meet so many that served. My only regret is that some passed away earlier this year as we planned the commemoration.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.