Taking Time to Remember

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Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veterans Day (U.S.) is observed on the 11th day of the 11th month of each year to mark the date of Armistice Day, the day when armies stopped fighting World War I on November 11 at 11:00 a.m. in 1918. In honor of this day, we offer the following message from August 16, 2015 which was shared by (retired) Chaplain (Colonel) Herman Keizer, Jr. at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

We are here to celebrate the men and the women who fought and were victorious in World War II. These warriors have been called “The Greatest Generation.” They fought in a war:

  • That changed the boundaries of the world’s nations.
  • That witnessed the rapid industrialization of the world’s major nations.
  • That witnessed the mobilization of huge militaries.
  • That provided the opportunity for women to enter the work force.
  • That showed us the heart of darkness in the holocaust.
  • That ended with the birth of the Nuclear Age.

There are names of National leaders that were larger than life and formed strange relationships:

  • Franklin D Roosevelt
  • Winston Churchill
  • Joseph Stalin
  • Adolph Hitler
  • Tito Mussolini
  • Harry Truman
  • Prince Bernard of the Netherlands
  • Joseph Goebbels
  • Hermann Goring
  • Emperor Hirohito

We met some of the greatest Warriors:

  • George C. Marshall
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Omar Bradley
  • George Patton
  • Douglas MacArthur
  • Chester Nimitz
  • Erwin Rommel
  • Claire Chenault
  • Chiang Kai-shek
  • Mark Clark
  • Jimmy Doolittle
  • Bull Halsey
  • Eddy Rickenbacker
  • Joseph Stilwell
  • Anthony McAuliffe “Nuts”
  • George Zhukov

These recognizable names were a small part of the story. The real story of the war was the men and women who fought the war. The German soldiers began the war as a well-trained, well equipped total force — a powerful Army with robust Panzers tanks and artillery in support, a massive Air Force and a powerful Navy on the water and under the water.

Our European allies, after suffering terrible defeats early in the war, rebuilt to be a robust total military. In the lands that Hitler conquered, the citizens established an underground filled with heroes who will never be recognized for their contributions to victory.

The Japanese had a huge Navy and Air Force, an Army that was experienced and well trained. Their military was fortified by their religious commitment to be willing to die and many fought to their death.

The American military began the war with a Navy that was weakened by the attack on Pearl Harbor, a small professional Army and Army Air corps. But the American commitment, once we entered the war, was an amazing show of mobilization. As the men were being trained in the military arts, the women moved into the factories and support roles in military. America’s efforts made her the most powerful industrial, economic, and military power in the world. We re-armed the Russians and the Europeans, led the Allied Armies in the strategic, operational and tactical battles of the war.

Every American was involved in the war. Families in the cities planted victory gardens, families lived off ration cards, became very frugal in the consumption of material goods and comfort items were abandoned in order to take care of the necessities of life and to make certain that their neighbors were also taken care of and were not in want.     

The names of the battles carry a sacred memory for those who fought in them:

  • Africa
  • Sicily
  • Operation  Overlord - D-day – Normandy
  • Market-Garden
  • Aachen
  • Dresden
  • The Battle of The Bulge
  • The Battles on the Eastern Front (From Moscow to Berlin)
  • V-E DAY
  • Guadalcanal
  • New Guinea
  • Solomon Islands
  • Leyte Gulf and the Philippians
  • Midway
  • Luzon
  • Bataan
  • The fire-bombing of Tokyo
  • Nagasaki and Hiroshima
  • V-J Day

The celebrations and parades that welcomed our service members home were spectacular — from the ship docks to the streets of our major cities. The homecoming was basked in the glorious uniform of Victory. The cheering crowds, the confetti, the marching soldiers, sailors and Marines, and flying above was the Army Air Corps. It was a sight to see and an image to remember.

The nation also remembered the dead from the war whose remains were scattered in cemeteries all over the world and those buried at sea, those who were still missing in action. No one was forgotten.

President George H. W. Bush, who was shot down and lost two members of his crew, said this about the war, “The war changed my life profoundly and I guess that some things never leave you, because they came back to me when I was in the Oval Office: our determination to win, the importance of teamwork, the pride we felt in our fellow Americans, and the great respect we developed for the military. My experience of war will be with me forever. I was a scared kid floating out there in the Pacific, worrying about my crewmates, fearing I might be captured — but knowing that all my buddies would go the extra mile to find me. You never forget that.”

On this 70th Anniversary we remember and want those who served in that Great War to know that they will never be forgotten. You have been blessed to be called America’s Greatest Generation. Thank you and God bless you. 

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Thanks Herman! I met some of these of "The Greatest Generation" yesterday while speaking at Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Community in Orange City, Iowa. Almost every man in attendance was a WWII Veteran and almost every woman was a widow of a WWII Veteran. Thanks be to God for the service and sacrifice of this generation!