June 6, 2012
World War II Memorial Ground Breaking Ceremony
On behalf of Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon, I am truly honored to be here today at the groundbreaking of the memorial to Oregon’s greatest generation. Our WWII veterans. Oregon is one of six states that do not have a memorial so it is long past time.
A few numbers before I share a few stories: of over 152,000 Oregonians that served, more than 3,700 died in WWII and more than 5,000 were wounded. We believe that there are less than 32,000 veterans alive in Oregon today.
There are many words we could use to describe this greatest of generations: Three come to my mind: Sacrifice…Tenacity…and Courage.
Sacrifice looks like David Kingsley who was the first native Oregonian to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He gave his parachute so that another would survive the crash. Sacrifice also looks like the hundreds of thousands of civilians who volunteered their efforts in support of their war.
Tenacity has many faces. Tenacity can look like Robert Diaz, one of four Oregon Tuskeegee airmen. He was willing to battle discrimination so he could follow his dreams.
Tenacity can also be a she. It is Oregon’s 30 Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who waited until 1977 to be recognized as veterans.
The daughter of Eileen Kesti said, “She told us after we were grown that she loved and missed flying so much she just couldn’t talk about it with us. It hurt to talk about it.”
Courage has many forms like the Flying Tiger Ken Jernstedt. Or Rex T. Barber of American Combat Airman Hall of Fame. Or Navy Capt Donald Hughes who was buried yesterday after passing away yesterday at the age of 90.
It takes the form of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who were willing to fight for their country and are one of the most decorated units in American military history. Kennie Namba said “We wanted to show that we were proud Americans and willing to die for our country.”
Courage as you know has many, many forms.
Those are the three words I think of when describing the men and women who served our country during World War II. Sacrifice…tenacity…and courage.
I am at the tail end of the Baby Boom, so I do not know much about the era. But I do know one thing: We are standing on the shoulders of giants.
It is high time we honor these brave yet humble heroes, and note the significance of the memorial being on the grounds of the State Capitol.
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