Time is accomplishing what the combined forces of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan could never do: wipe out the generation of Americans who won World War II.I'm so glad to hear that these two not only survived the war, but have managed to live long and productive lives together for so long.
Nearly 16 million U.S. veterans came home after the war ended in 1945. Only about 1.5 million of them are still alive, including about 3,100 in Kentucky. The Veterans Administration estimates that these men and women in their 80s and 90s are passing at the rate of 740 a day.
So when I got a call recently from Donald and Mary Jane Roser of Lexington, who both served in the military during World War II and have been married for 65 years, I figured they would have interesting stories to tell.
Donald Roser, 93, was in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific, including nearly five months in the Guadalcanal campaign. "I always say I must be going to heaven, because I've already been to hell," he said.
Mary Jane Roser, 91, was one of 350,000 women accepted into military service during the war. She joined a new Navy unit called the WAVES, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
I had three grandparents who served in the war--both grandfathers and a grandmother who served as an Army nurse and lost a kidney in the war when a patient kicked her. One of my grandfathers was at Iwo Jima in a tank division. I never knew the other; he survived the war but he and my father were estranged. My father, in turn, served in Vietnam.
Both of the grandparents I knew fell not to war, but to tobacco--one had emphysema and was on oxygen for years; another had lung cancer.
I miss them still, even though it's been several years since they passed. My grandmother died in 1993. She got me through my divorce and helped me back on my feet, dying just before I graduated from library school. My grandfather, whom I loved dearly, died in 2000. I can still remember the sound of their voices. There's only my last remaining grandmother left, and she turns 88 on Tuesday.
Tom Brokaw called them 'The Greatest Generation'. I'm just sorry we're losing them so quickly now. It's nice that these two are still together, going strong.