November 4. 2013
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) Retiree Group brought together former VDOF employees including ten men who are World War II (WWII) veterans. The gathering was all about story telling and honoring those who fought for our freedom.
Roland Geddes worked for VDOF for 42 years after he served in the Navy for several years right as the war was ending.
"I was just a kid really. It's an honor for me to be here with these true veterans of World War II," said Geddes. "I was in a Navy pre-flight school at a college in Minnesota when I heard this kid come running down the hall screaming 'They've dropped the atom bomb, we can go home. We can go home.'"
Many WWII veterans are in their 90s. Ernest Shelton is 93. He was a pilot in the Air Force.
"My talk up there was just brief, one mission," said Shelton. "That's when I was shot down."
After being shot down, he was captured as a prisoner of war. He described the conditions as unpleasant, cold, and cramped.
"24 officers were housed in one room, 25 by 25," explained Shelton. "The bedding was rough pine boards built three tiers in the room and the bedding was burlap."
Many veterans are no longer with us. Leroy Collins is a veteran who passed away this past spring. Collin's daughter, Kitti Mann, talked about his life and his love for the Department of Forestry where he was a mechanic.
Collins also played a part in the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944.
"He didn't talk about it much at all," said Mann. "I think there were many things that he picked up from service that he passed on to us. Like the idea of honor and his work ethic."
The US Veterans Administration says that over 600 WWII veterans die each day. This fact shows the importance of honoring their service and hearing the stories from "The Greatest Generation".
"I think we need to remember that," said Mann. "We need to remember how important our country is and that is it worth giving your life or giving your service."
"I think they truly were "The Greatest Generation" and we need to, as long as they are with us, keep honoring them," said Geddes.
Monday's event was honoring veterans a week before the national holiday. Veterans Day will be observed on Monday, November 11, 2013.