VALDOSTA -- American Legion Post 13 opened its doors to members of our greatest generation -- World War II veterans, and those who manned the home front, so they could view the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
As the veterans, family and friends watched three TV sets, the veterans -- who are in their 70s and 80s -- weren't full of bravado or patting themselves on the back; they didn't have to. The proof of their sacrifice and service is evident in the freedoms this nation enjoys today.
Some of them, like 77-year-old Maceo A. Horne Jr., an African-American who was drafted into the Army in 1945, had faced racial barriers. He served proudly in with the 661st Infantry in Mannheim, Germany, for 11 months. Like many GIs after the war, he came home and used the GI Bill and earned a bachelor of science degree at Georgia State College, and later earned a masters degree in school administration in Indiana.
When asked what the dedication meant to him, Horne said: "I'm highly appreciative. It's a little late, but I'm glad it's here today."
Salvatore Verrelli, 79, entered the Navy in 1942 and served aboard the destroyer DD-520 in the Pacific for more than a year. Later, he served on a transport ship that took soldiers and Marines to Okinawa. His ship was credited with shooting down two Japanese planes during the Okinawa invasion, he said.
The dedication of the memorial should have been done a long time ago, Verrelli said. When the ceremony began, he knew his hands would be shaking.
"This was the war of all wars," Verrelli said.
With Verrelli was his wife, Rose Marie, 79, who was one of the millions of civilians who did their part supporting the war effort on the home front. Right out of high school, she worked at the Curtis Wright factory at Patterson, N.J., where her group was responsible for keeping track of the all the parts that were needed to build aircraft for the war effort. One of the airplanes built at the factory was the B-29 Superfortress bomber, she said. While she was in high school, she remembers the young men who were drafted out of the classroom and unable to graduate. Some of those young men never came home, she said.
She also remembers her school giving high school diplomas to the families of the young men serving so far from home.
Gene Brimmage, 78, was drafted into the Army and served with the 87th Division, "Golden Acorn," and was attached to the 3rd Army under Gen. George Patton. Brimmage was wounded while crossing the Rhine River in a small six-man boat, he said. "The memorial was well overdue, but we never did complain," Brimmage said. "We had a lot more support than the Korean and Vietnam veterans, and probably more than the people serving today. What we did was the right thing and going over there was memorial enough."
Billy Langdale joined the Marine Corps on Feb. 10, 1942. It was a flip of a coin that put him in the Marines. Originally he wanted to join the Navy, and his buddy wanted to joint the Marines. His buddy won. "The fact they are having the dedication of the memorial is a great tribute," Langdale said. "I lost a lot of buddies during the war, plus a lot of good friends in the Marine Corps."
Charlie Mayer joined the Army at the tender age of 14 in 1942. He was part of the second wave on D-Day with the 9th Infantry Division and was later wounded at St. Lo, he said. "I'm proud I went in," he said.
Sitting at Mayer's right was Vietnam War veteran John Holland, who served in the Air Force. "I'm proud to be sitting next to him," Holland said.
John Milhous sat at Mayer's left and was a Korean War Navy veteran. Milhous said it felt great to be by Mayer. "By him serving in the war, I can sit here today."
To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, 237.
- Valdosta students shot, stabbed in separate incidents
- Tropical Storm Ian: Valdosta could see 'low-level hurricane' winds
- County, city issue emergency declaration
- Kemp issues Ian state of emergency
- Lowndes battens down hatches: County preps for Ian impact
- UPDATE: South Georgia school closings: Lowndes, Valdosta close for Ian
- Lowndes County Food Scores
- Valdosta storm danger lessens
- City OKs beer for downtown
- RICHARDS: Business About Town