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They are the men and women who came of age in the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, then went off to fight in the Big One.

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His magnetic smile belies the peril he’s endured, the evil he’s witnessed, the horrors he’s helped others survive.

The World War II Memorial is a symbol of triumph, a monument to the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the American people.

It was the day fascism died, the day “the last of our enemies was laid low,” the day a new era of family life was ushered in by global jubilation. 

First came the noiseless blue white flash, a wave of heat that erased all shadows. Then, the heavens turned orange and, for an hour, rained black.

“We were scared out of our wits. We were told to get the hell off the beach. If you’re on the beach, you’re a victim.”

At the Florida National Cemetery, no one is given preferential treatment. All veterans are buried next to each other in order of arrival. Like brothers. 

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Just out of high school, the two buddies were setting up their Tampa apartment when their roommate grabbed an AK-47 and ended their lives.

In 1945, they defeated Nazi tyranny. In 2020, World War II veterans commemorate 75 years since the great conflict ended. Every day, memories of the war — its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs — disappear. This is the first in an ongoing series honoring those veterans’ sacrifice.