I had the opportunity this past weekend to spend some time with the official historian of a particular American military unit. This is an outfit that stretches back to the mid-nineteenth century and has fought in most of America’s engagements since that time. No longer active duty, this individual traces his time with the outfit back to the early 1970s. During our conversation he mentioned the unit’s annual dinners, which he has attended going back to his days as a young, active duty officer. I asked him if at these annual gatherings he ever had the opportunity to meet and talk with any of the Great War veterans who had worn the regiment’s insignia in 1917-18. He lit up when I asked and said that indeed he had. These WW1 veterans would have been in their mid 70s at the time.
The historian filled in a few anecdotes before noting ruefully that while he had indeed made these men’s acquaintance, he did not engage with them as extensively as would have liked today. Now those doughboys are all gone. Of course he was not the unit historian at that time, but a young, Vietnam-era officer with much on his mind. Today as the unit historian he has made certain to record and preserve all he can about the rapidly fading WW2 veterans. In just a few years they too will be all gone.
(image/Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons)