Source: Sherman Publications

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Phil in the Blank A column by Phil Custodio
Vets fading fast

by Phil Custodio

May 23, 2012

When I was growing up, World War II veterans were young, younger than Vietnam War veterans are nowadays.

The principal of my elementary school was a veteran he'd tell us stories of combat in the Pacific.

World War I vets were still marching in uniform in parades and coming out to school to talk to us.

Those veterans of the Great War have been gone for years now, and only the youngest World War II veterans are still around.

But not for much longer.

There aren't many weeks when at least one WWII veteran isn't listed in the obituary page. This week's edition has two, Mr. Thomas Doney and Mr. Arnold Johnson.

Last week's paper included Mr. George Thompson, who passed away on May 13 at the age of 93.

I remember seeing George around a lot, at Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day events, presentations to students at Clarkston Junior High and other schools, and other places.

For the veterans events, he'd wear his 1940s issue uniform and bring a case full of memorabilia he gathered while fighting Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater. He loved to show photos he took of native women in their tropical island attire.

Sitting in his foxhole in the middle of the jungle in the Philippines, could he have ever imagined he would survive the war, raise a family, and live well into the 21st century?

Probably not. A few years ago, he told me he wondered why he stayed alive when so many others didn't. He carried a Browning Automatic Rifle, a prime target for Japanese snipers, and took part in major battles.

"The Good Lord looked after me I always thought there must be a reason," he said at the time.

With more than 50 descendants so far, there were lots.

This Memorial Day, I'm going to remember and honor George, Thomas, Arnold, and their fellow veterans from World War II, Joseph Miracle, who died in action in Afghanistan five years ago, and all other veterans.

Where would we be without them?