I wrote this a year ago after attending the funeral of a friend, relative, and World War II veteran. I’ve updated it appropriately, shortened it a little, and I don’t think Larry would mind seeing it a second time.
I know that Memorial Day is, officially, a time for honoring those who died in service to their country, and Veteran’s Day is the time for honoring those lucky enough to have survived. But in practice, we take this weekend to honor all those who have served our country.
As with all things, it means more when it gets personal. Just over a year ago, Shar’s cousin Laurence Martin passed away. He was a veteran of the 71st Division in France, Germany, and Austria from 1943-1946 and liberated Gunskirchen-Lager, one of Hitler’s concentration camps. In this time when we hear of people denying the Nazi concentration camps even existed, it’s important to preserve what these soldiers witnessed. The booklet pictured on the left can be accessed on the web. It records what the soldiers found and how they dealt with the situation.
WILLARD G. WYMAN, Major General, wrote in the forward, “The damning evidence against the Nazi war criminals found at Gunskirchen Lager is being recorded in this booklet in the hope that the lessons learned in Germany will not soon be forgotten…. I saw Gunskirchen Lager myself before the 71st Division had initiated its merciful task of liberation. The horror of Gunskirchen must not be repeated. A permanent, honest record of the crimes committed there will serve to remind all of us in future years that the freedom and privileges we enjoy in a democratic nation must be jealously guarded and protected.”
It’s hard for me to imagine how soldiers like Larry Martin were able to witness what they did, clean up the mess, care for the living and bury the dead, and then go home to places like Marion, Iowa, and lead normal, productive lives. There’s a good reason they were called the Greatest Generation. And to honor their service, it wouldn’t hurt any of us to read a little about what they accomplished: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Gunskirchen.html
Thank a veteran. Most of the World War II vets are at least 90, and more than 600 of them are dying each day. We don’t have a lot of time left.