They're a dying breed.
Unfortunately, and literally.
Of the 16 million-plus American service men and women who served our country in the most devastating of international wars, World War II, little more than 1 million veterans remain.
These soldiers, sailers, airmen, Marines, WAVES, WACS, WASPS and more sacrificed, struggled and endured at great loss: More than 400,000 of their comrades died during the United States' involvement. More than 671,000 were wounded.
With the youngest vets now in their late 80s, and most in their 90s, they are passing, taking with them not only stories of perilous times, but an American philosophy.
Tom Brokaw, who coined the phrase "Greatest Generation" and wrote the book on those who came of age during the Great Depression and then answered their county's call, summed up the time and its people well: "The WWII generation shares so many common values: duty, honor, country, personal responsibility and the marriage vow ... For better or for worse - it was the last generation in which, broadly speaking, marriage was a commitment and divorce was not an option."?
Times change. People change. And not always for the better.
Area veterans who served in World War II will be honored next month as part of a local "Spirit of '45" program and dinner.
The local event to take place on Sunday, Aug. 14, is one of hundreds of such recognition programs to take place across the county to mark the end of World War II.
This year, the dinner falls on the actual anniversary date of when the Japanese surrender was announced.
One of the largest gatherings here will take place at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort in Fort Myers, where World War II veterans will be feted at a dinner and program intended as a thank you to all who served as well as a tribute to those who gave their lives.
Attendance is by reservation only. Veterans and spouses are free. Tickets are $25 to others wishing to attend.
Reservations must be made by Aug. 4 and may be made by calling Eryka Aptaker, chair of the Lee County event, at 917-607-4385.
To paraphrase President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny.
They are to be remembered.
They are to be commended.
And they are to be thanked.
We join those across the county who thank them and who will recognize The "Spirit of '45" again on Aug. 14.
- Citizen editorial