MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
They lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and came home to build one of the finest nations known to mankind. Hailed “The Greatest Generation,” these men and women are now in their 80’s and 90’s.
Marines and sailors from this era were honored at the 2nd Marine Division World War II Commemoration Day Ceremony Nov. 18, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Active duty Marines escorted the vets to various places on base and shared their experiences with them.
“This is definitely an honor and a privilege to be escorting these Navy and Marine Corps vets around,” said Sgt. Isaac Garza, a field radio operator with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd MarDiv. “You can see the joy on their faces interacting with the Marines. Just being here sharing those familiar stories with veterans shows you that once a Marine always a Marine.”
According to the National World War II Veterans association, veterans from the era are dying quickly – at the rate of 740 a day.
Mike Burkhead, son of one of the vets, said he wanted to make sure his dad was properly honored before that time ever came. He said that just seeing him interact with all of the younger Marines made the trip all the more worthwhile for him and his father.
“He kept on thanking me a whole bunch for bringing him here and I am so happy to have been able to bring him here and experience this with him,” said Burkhead. “Seeing all you guys is a great experience and hearing all of the stories is great.”
Throughout the day, vets were given a chance to see some of the new equipment the Marine Corps uses today and visit various parts of the base. They exchanged old war stories with the Marines and explained the type of weaponry they used in their time.
“It sounds like the static displays are what they’re most excited about,” said Garza. “It will be interesting for them to see just how far the military has come technologically.”
The vets took a group picture with active duty Marines and let out a loud, ‘ooh-rah!’
Old friends laughed and joked with each other as if no time had passed since their last encounter. They made their way to the tour busses and thanked the Marines for their time.
“I think they all just like being able to talk to you guys so this is a good opportunity to mix with all you guys and share the stories,” said Burkhead. “You guys are all wonderful and we really appreciate the time to come out here and honor these men and women.”