Vermont veterans attend opening of World War II Memorial

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(Host) Three busloads of veterans left Vermont Friday to attend the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Veterans’ groups say the completion of the memorial provides a long needed recognition of the men and women who served in the Second World War.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The new memorial, which is located on a seven and a half acre parcel of land directly between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, has been built to honor all of the 16 million men and women who served in the Armed Forces during World War II. As many as 800,000 veterans and their families are expected to attend Saturday’s formal dedication of the granite and bronze memorial.

The head of the Vermont Chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ron Gascon, helped organize the trip for veterans in the state:

(Gascon) “The importance is to say thank you to those World War II veterans, the greatest generation. And I know a lot of them and I tend to agree with that they’re a wonderful group of guys. And they have felt left out of the loop a little bit with the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial down there on the Mall. I’m sure they’re thinking, we’re the greatest generation – why aren’t we represented? So these gentleman will get a chance to be honored for the things that they did during World War II.”

(Kinzel) Gascon says one enduring characteristic of this group of veterans is their sense of duty to their country:

(Gascon) “You don’t hear a lot of blowing their own horns, even by those that were at Normandy and the landing, and all those other kinds of things. And all of them aren’t, I guess what you would say, quote-unquote ‘heroes’ – especially in their own minds. But they all went and did the job that they had to do to make sure that the outcome of the war both in the Pacific and the Atlantic came out properly.”

(Kinzel) About one-third of all the people who served in World War II are still alive today; the youngest are in their late seventies. Gascon says he’s saddened that so many of the veterans of the Second World War are not alive to see the new memorial:

(Gascon) “It’s unfortunate so many of them had to miss it because we’ve lost so many. I feel a little bad because so many will never see this thing but it is a way for this country to say thank you.”

(Kinzel) Gascon says virtually all of the expenses for the Vermont veterans bus trip have been provided through donations from people all across the state.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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