About 150 people gathered Tuesday morning for a tribute at the National World War II Memorial. The event, sponsored by Friends of the World War II Memorial, the National Park Service and the Military District of Washington, focused specifically on veterans who served in the second world war.
Terry Shima, 92, who served in the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, said it was humbling to represent soldiers who died in combat and called the tribute awesome.
National Park Service volunteers stand with World War II veterans during a Tuesday ceremony at the National World War II Memorial. About a dozen veterans were honored during the ceremony. SHFWire photo by Ayana Stewart
“I hope that the 400,000 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice could be here to witness this,” he said, gesturing at the memorial.
During the ceremony, 12 World War II veterans laid large wreaths at a memorial wall decorated with gold stars for the soldiers killed in the war. “Amazing Grace” was played on bagpipes as each veteran touched wreaths and saluted.
Each of the 400 stars represents a thousand soldiers who died during the war.
Shima’s unit was made up entirely of Japanese Americans. Because his family lived in Hawaii, they were not sent to an internment camp as many families on the West Coast were. After the war, he was a foreign service officer at the State Department and served as a diplomat in Asia.
He is still involved with the Japanese American Veterans Association. He received the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama for working to preserve the legacies of Japanese service members.
He made friends with some of the other veterans honored during the wreath-laying ceremony.
“We’re all getting old,” he said. “There aren’t too many of us left.”
Former war correspondent Joseph Galloway, who gave the ceremony’s keynote speech, thanked the veterans sitting in folding chairs on the lawn. Galloway covered the Vietnam War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 for United Press International.
He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for rescuing an injured soldier while on assignment during the Vietnam War, the first given to a civilian.
“You’ve dwindled down to a precious few,” he said. “We honor you, we respect you, we salute you. Thank you for all you did for our country and all you did for this world of ours.”
Army Lt. Col. Geoff Fuller, 47, and his wife Kerry, 43, brought their three teenagers to the ceremony. Fuller, who works at the Pentagon, said the family travels from Woodbridge, Va., to visit memorials every Veterans Day.
The couple’s son Jackson, 13, said he thought the ceremony was “pretty cool.” Kerry said the family has made the event a priority because they want their children to honor those who have served in the military.
“I think it’s important for kids to know it’s not just a day off of school,” she said.