DOVER, Del. - Surrounded by friends, family and supporters, dozens of World War II veterans witnessed the unveiling of a state-sponsored WWII memorial during a ceremony here, Nov. 9, 2013.
“I am truly honored and very humbled to be in the presence of you great World War II veterans,” Army Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala said. “I know my father, a veteran of World War II, would be delighted that his native state, the first state, will finally dedicate a state memorial to our World War II veterans right here in the capital at Legislative Hall.”
Vavala, who serves as the adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, told the veterans that they are truly members of the Greatest Generation.
“You selflessly preserved the world from tyranny and oppression. Your sacrifices and selfless service purchased for us the privileges of freedom, democracy and the unmatched opportunities that we enjoy in our United States,” Vavala said. “It’s real fitting that we honor you today in perpetuity through this monument.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper also spoke about his lineage, citing various family members who served in the Navy and Army during the worldwide conflict.
“My mom’s youngest brother Bob was a seaman in World War II. He never came home,” Carper said. “He died in a Kamikaze attack on an aircraft carrier in the western Pacific. I never got to meet him. When we talked about all those lives that were lost, that’s one of them.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons spoke about the 33,000 Delawareans who served in the U.S. military during the war and the civilians back at home who supported them.
“The Greatest Generation was led by, inspired by, the men who took up arms and fought for us around the world,” Coons said. “But they were supported by, loved by, and cheered on by, a generation here at home - from children to seniors - who pitched in to do their part for Uncle Sam.”
The Second World War was costly for the United States and the state of Delaware was no different. More than 417,000 U.S. service members and civilians lost their lives; roughly 812 of those were Delawareans who died during the course of the conflict.
“I was in the 82nd Airborne during World War II,” said former Delaware State Rep. Jerry Unruh who served in the Army as a paratrooper and combat engineer. “We had the highest casualty rate of the [United States] divisions over there. Our division [strength] was something around like 8,000. We had a causality rate, killed and wounded, of 65 percent.”
Unruh emphasized the importance of honoring veterans for selfless service and sacrifice in support of freedom and democracy.
“We honor our veterans, let us never forget that they gave their todays so we could have our tomorrows,” Unruh said. “To our heroes, we give a heartfelt salute and offer this monument as our humble tribute.”