This year, Veterans Day seemed to get lost in the never-ending, post-election news coverage. But all over the country were celebrations honoring our 21.8 million veterans for their service in the U.S. Military. Originally known as Armistice Day, November 11 commemorated the end of World War I in 1918. Congress renamed the day Veterans Day in 1954 and it has been an annual opportunity to honor our largest group of veterans, those who served in World War II, most of whom are now in their late 80s and 90s.
Inspired by a story in the Miami Herald of a local vet and another story in the New York Times of a young LA writer trying to preserve the stories of World War II vets (and the suggestion of my sister!) I would like to thank my dad, Rocci Lombard for his service during World War II.
My father was drafted into the Army Air Force and served in the Pacific Theatre in Okinawa. Born in 1921, my dad grew up in Sharpsville, a small steel-mill town in northwestern Pennsylvania. After high school, he was drafted into the service where he was trained as a crew member on B-29 aircraft.
My dad never felt his service was heroic because he was fortunate enough to spend most of his tenure in the military, in training schools in the US. When his unit was deployed, they landed in Okinawa after it had been secured by the Army and the Marines in the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War. Okinawa was to become the departure point for the planned Japanese offensive. But my dad and his fellow soldiers were spared facing combat when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, ending the war in the Pacific.
Like many of his peers, he returned home from the war and went to college. He graduated from Thiel College and attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, but stopped short of completing his degree, something he always regretted, to take a position in the insurance industry. Like many of his generation, he worked hard, raised a family and encouraged us to give back to our communities.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only 620,000 were alive in 2016, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics. Let’s not lose their stories. We welcome our readers to email us at [email protected] and share your veterans story.