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June 06, 2013 8:01 am

EDITORIAL: WWII veterans should be honored before all are gone

Written by Tom Lawrence

The announcement that Wyoming’s congressional delegation supports a Congressional Gold Medal for the fabled Devil’s Brigade was welcome news.

The members of the Devil’s Brigade, the popular name for the First Special Service Force, were true heroes during World Ward II. It was a joint American-Canadian unit that trained in Montana and was deployed to some of the most dangerous locations during the war.

These tough, rugged, daring men, many of whom came from Wyoming and Montana, scaled mountains, undertook risky parachute landings and fought against Axis forces in numerous locations, often in winter conditions or in the face of superior numbers.

Many died or were wounded, but more came home to go back to work, raise families and become valued members of their communities. Only about 180 remain alive now.

Their deeds have been celebrated in books and movies, and historians have chronicled the real-life adventures of these highly trained, risk-loving men. Forget about John Wayne and other celluloid heroes; the Devil’s Brigade was all too real, as the enemies they faced found out.

Those Devils well earned their awards and acclaim.

Wyoming paid tribute to its WWII veterans with six honor flights to the nation’s capital from 2009-2011. Larry Barttelbort, director of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, said 650 heroes boarded those flights.

It’s puzzling why such an honor as a Congressional Gold Medal for the Devil’s Brigade has taken this long, and why Congress doesn’t pass it as swiftly as it has other bills, including those that impact their air travel on weekends.

But let’s not quibble at this late date, especially today, June 6, the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the battle that turned WWII. Pass the bill and salute these brave warriors while there are still some around to hear the news.

The death of Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., on Monday illustrates the continued passing of the men and women who served during the greatest and most horrific war in world history.

Lautenberg was 89. His death was not unexpected, but following the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, late last year, it meant that none of the 115 World War II veterans who continued to serve in the Senate remain in office.

The Greatest Generation, as they have been dubbed for surviving the Great Depression and World War II, is slipping from us.

There still are more than 1 million living veterans of the war, including fewer than 3,000 in Wyoming. Bill White, 98, of Powell, is among those old soldiers who honor us with their presence.

They are answering the final call to assembly at a steady pace. The Veterans Administration says about 680 WWII veterans die each day.

These are the men and women in uniform who saved the world from ruthless dictators and violent ideologies that threatened the very core of human existence.

A gold medal for the Devil’s Brigade sounds like a very fitting tribute, albeit one long overdue.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link June 07, 2013 7:14 am posted by Salty Dawg

    Never again will a generation of veterans abandon another generation of veterans.Welcome home all Vietnam vets.WWII has been glorified enough,move on.

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