The Greatest Generation

Arlington National Cemetery
Tombstones at Arlington

In one year, they are almost all gone. 2008 saw the deaths of France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Germany’s last living World War I veterans. In the United States, our last surviving World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, is 107 years old. Around the world, there are seven living veterans of the first World War: Four British, one Australian, one Canadian, and Mr. Buckles.

Currently, there are 2.5 million American veterans of the Second World War still alive today, out of 16 million which served. Around 900 American World War II veterans die each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of these veterans are in their eighties. Within the next 30 years, we will see the last World War II veterans pass away, and another war will fade from public memory. Only this time, the war was the greatest armed struggle in human history.

Remembering such a struggle, preserving the record of the world for time immemorial, is why history is not only an important field of study but a field which is vital to the maintenance of a working society. A society which forgets its past is condemned to repeat it. And a nation with no sense of where it came from has no future.

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