World War II veterans from Colorado were in Washington, D.C. recently, each one seeing for the first time the national memorial created in their honor. Capitol News Connection’s Elizabeth Wynne Johnson sent this audio postcard from the latest journey of the Rocky Mountain Honor Flight. It includes the voices of veterans Ernest DeGraw, Warren Pfeifer and Amos Foster, U.S. Air Force Col. Tom Shetter and Rocky Mountain Honor Flight President Mary Denise Haddon. (First broadcast April 8, 2011)
[Photo by Flickr user sandcastlematt]
DeGRAW: We’re at the WWII Memorial. It’s a great treat for all of us. Thirty-six vets who came out and none of us have seen it before so it’s a real treat. … Ernest DeGraw. I’m from Pueblo, West Colorado.
PFEIFFER: I’ve got five great-grandchildren here. Met me at the bus! … They came up from Montgomery Ala. Drove all day on the bus. Warren Pfeiffer from Colorado Springs, CO.
FOSTER: Amos Foster. I’m from Pueblo, CO. … It is wonderful – I’ve always wanted to come see it. I was in that WWII for quite a while. It’s beautiful. Ever since they made that thing I’ve wanted to come see it and this is my first time. Brings back a lot of old memories.
SHETTER: Colonel Tom Shetter. For a military person like me, I mean, these are men and women that gave us our freedom and those are the footsteps we follow. My father was a WWII vet. A great way to give back, spend time with people who I honor and appreciate.
DeGRAW: It’s a lot different from when we came home originally. This is great. I can’t think of a better tribute to the men who didn’t come home. It’s a great tribute, and I think it was long overdue.
SHETTER: Most of these ladies and gentlemen, they’re all in their late 80s now. Losing around 1,100 veterans a day, and there’s only about 2.3 million WWII veterans left. But obviously that number will increase exponentially over the next few years…
DeGRAW: What I see standing right here. It reminds of everything they used to talk about – Roosevelt, Truman – all the states sticking together. You really that, we were one hell of a great country. ...] I think if we’re not careful we’ll lose it. … because I think that the attitude today is more “me” than “us.”
HADDON: They did their job, they came home and picked up their lives and carried on. And they’ve kept these memories repressed for 66 years or more. And, between coming here, seeing the wall with the gold stars, going to the changing of the guard ceremony – it’s an opportunity for them to close that chapter of their lives.
DeGRAW: Oh God, this is something I’ve wanted to see. All I can think of is the guys that didn’t come home. … It’s kind of hard to take right now. Members of my own family, my wife’s family, didn’t make it home. And I feel like I’m here for them. Excuse me (voice cracking)…