Sixty-five years ago, more than 65 million American men and women were engaged in a two-front World War that threatened our freedoms and way of life.
But thanks to the courage and commitment of this "Greatest Generation", the threat of World domination coming from Japan and Nazi Germany was nullified.
The nation is losing its World War II generation at a rate of 1,000 per week, and most, now in their mid- and upper-80s, will be gone within five years.
Grand Rapids Walter Durkee American Legion Post 311 is working to honor these men and women while we still can. On May 11, 55 local World War II veterans and escorts will be on the inaugural Legion Flight 311, a one-day out-and-back trip to Washington D.C. to take them to the World War II memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
"Most of these veterans have never had the chance to visit their memorial, and we want to provide the opportunity to do so for as many as we can," said Bob Becker, Cornerstone adjunct professor of Journalism, who is a trustee for Post 311.
"There are now 100 Honor Flight hubs throughout the country, which have already taken more than 50,000 vets on their special trip. We wanted to be sure that West Michigan's veterans were included.
"The veterans don't have to raise funds or pay anything for their trip," Becker added. "They paid for their tickets in the skies over Germany, on the islands in the South Pacific, and in the dangerous waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans."
Legion Flight is funded by donations. It costs about $300 per veteran for air fare, bus, admission/tram costs, t-shirt and meals.
Saturday, at the 1 p.m. game with Aquinas, the Cornerstone women's basketball team is hosting a "World War II Day", hoping to raise enough money to sponsor one World War II vet on that May 11 flight.
Two World War II veterans and their escorts will be introduced before the game, and will be on hand to meet students and fans during halftime of the game.
For more information on Legion Flight 311, go to www.legionflight311.com.
To see what goes on on an actual Honor Flight trip, go to www.honorflightchicago.comand watch the short film narrated by actor Gary Sinese.
Come out Saturday and support the Golden Eagles' women's basketball team. And then take the opportunity to thank those who paid such a high price for us by shaking their hands and supporting their Washington D.C. trip.