'Spirit of '45 Day' to honor those who served in WWII

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0809-Memorial Day wreath

Hundreds of communities across America will observe National Spirit of ’45 Day on the weekend of Aug. 10-11, honoring the men and women of the World War II generation, including the late U.S. Senators Dan K. Inouye of Hawaii and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Inouye and Lautenberg were the last two WWII veterans serving in the Senate when it unanimously voted for a national day of remembrance for America’s Greatest Generation, which is observed on the second Sunday in August, aligning with the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945 – the day President Harry S. Truman announced that WWII was over.

Spirit of ’45 Day weekend officially begins with a ceremonial event in Bangor, Maine, on Aug. 10, which will pay tribute to Maine senior Senator Susan Collins, who introduced the idea of a new annual day of remembrance honoring the “ordinary heroes” of the WWII generation in 2010.

On the West Coast, the USS Iowa Museum will have a full day program featuring WWII veterans, re-enactors, living swing band music and tours of the historic battleship that carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference in November 1943, and was in Tokyo Bay on the day the official peace treaty was signed between the US and Japan on Sept. 2, 1945. The Iowa was part of the flotilla of warships that served in the invasion of Okinawa in the spring of 1945, that included the USS New Jersey which will be having its Spirit of '45 Day event on Saturday evening, during which it will be honoring Senator Lautenberg, who passed away on June 3.

On Aug.11, there will be a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. to official kick off a nationwide "Tribute to America's Greatest Generation," which will include hundreds of wreath-laying ceremonies across the country, ending in the Punchbowl National Cemetery at the gravesite of the late Senator Dan Inouye. Senator Inouye lost an arm serving as the youngest member of the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was third in the line of succession to the U.S. Presidency when he died on Dec. 17, 2012.

The ceremony at the WWII Memorial will feature remarks by former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army and four-star General Frederick J. Kroesen, Jr., who was a combat soldier during the liberation of Europe, serving as a platoon leader and company commander with the 254th Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division, which blazed a path of "Blood and Fire" across Germany in March-April 1945.

Also speaking during the ceremony will be Dr. Robert Sutton, Chief Historian of the National Parks Service; Brigadier General (Ret) Jack Nicholson, former Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission; US Navy Memorial Founder USN Admiral (Ret) Bill Thompson; Lt. General USAF (Ret) Richard Y. Newton, III, Air Force Association; and Linda Mathes, CEO of the American Red Cross National Capitol Region.

Also speaking will be Jerry Yellin, 89, who flew the final combat mission of WWII on Aug. 14, 1945, and is a national spokesman for Spirit of '45 Day. Mr. Yellin also will be speaking at a ceremony hosted by Amtrak and Honor Flight in Philadelphia at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The “Tribute” will continue on throughout the country as part of Spirit of '45 Day events that are being organized by members of “We Honor Veterans,"” a partnership between the Veterans Administration and hospice care providers that will take place at WWII memorials and other venues. The Rhode Island Hospice Partnership is organizing 15 separate ceremonies in Rhode Island, which had the highest percentage of its population in uniform during WWII. Each ceremony will conclude with a live performance of “Taps” by a member of Bugles Across America.

Several communities are planning day-long celebrations during Spirit of '45 Day weekend during which the wartime photos of WWII veterans are being scanned and uploaded to become part of a national “Wall of Honor” project that is archiving the photos and stories of the 16 million who served in the war. Couples who were married during the war are being invited to send in their wedding photos so they can be included in a mosaic collage of photograph of the famous “Times Square Kiss.”

The collage will be displayed on giant screens in Times Square on Aug. 14, and at a mass public event held in San Diego at the 25-foot Seward Johnson sculpture depicting a sailor kissing a nurse that stands in front of the USS Midway.

Major League Baseball teams will also be having Spirit of ‘45 Day observances during their games in August, celebrating their WWII legacy and honoring baseball legends Bob Feller (Cleveland Indians), Yogi Berra (Yankees), Jackie Robinson (Dodgers), Warren Spahn (Braves), Stan Musial (Cardinals) and other famous players who served in WWII. Teams will be inviting WWII veterans out on the field and showing a video message from legendary Tuskegee Airman and Spirit of '45 Day national spokesman Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr.

“Spirit of '45 Day is a wonderful time for all Americans to come together to celebrate the achievements and values of the WWII generation, and to reflect on what made them great,” said Warren Hegg, who leads a grassroots nonprofit initiative “Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!” which promotes the observance of Spirit of '45 Day. “By remembering their courage, shared sacrifice, ‘can do’ attitude, sense of national unity and commitment to service, we can renew the same spirit of national unity that we need to meet the challenges of today and follow their example of helping to assure a better future for our children and their children's children.”

“Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!” is helping to organize a nationwide commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII that will take place on Aug. 14-16, 2015.

For a partial list of Spirit of '45 Day events and activities, please visit www.Spiritof45.org.

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