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‘Greatest Generation’ is fading fast

MURFREESBORO – Of the 16 million Americans that served in World War II, only a little more than three million are still alive.

And with more than 7,000 of these veterans passing away each week, the “Greatest Generation” is fading fast.

The figures give a sense of urgency to honor not only those who were called into action in World War II, but those who have served in other conflicts and are currently serving.

On Saturday at the Murfreesboro Town Hall, citizens, town officials and war veterans did just that as the 6th annual Murfreesboro Veterans’ Day Program took place.

During a reception that followed, families intermingled with veterans, perhaps giving them the long coming “thank you” they’ve never heard or requested.

United States Navy Captain Evin H. Thompson, the featured speaker for the program, noted how those two words can bring pride to an American in the military.

“I get disturbed sometimes when I’m wearing my uniform and I don’t hear thank you,” he said.

His answer was prompted by a question from the audience about the negative publicity the military receives from the media.

Thompson continued by saying no matter where he is or what he is doing when he sees a person in military uniform he makes sure to go up to them, shake their hand and say “thank you.”

A Commander for Naval Special Warfare Group Four at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va., Thompson graduated from the Naval Academy in 1982 and then completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training the following year. For the next 10 years he was attached to SEAL Team Two.

His staff assignments have taken him to a number of locations in the United States and overseas. His last assignment was a Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.

Thompson addressed the veterans who served in each of the past wars.

“I would not be standing here today without those who came before me,” he said.

Thompson also talked about the men and women who serve today all around the world and the progress the troops are making in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s still an incredible challenge in Iraq,” he said. “But they (the Iraqi people) want freedom.”

Thompson said he has spent 22 months in Iraq over the four years the war has ensued.

During his speech he also noted the achievement war veterans have gone on to attain.

“The veterans that have gone (to war), come back to do great things from being president to being a father,” Thompson said.

Thompson encouraged each veteran to celebrate their service to the country.

Outside, the North Carolina National Guard of Ahoskie lowered an American flag presented during the dedication of the Murfreesboro War Memorial on behalf of Senator Elizabeth Dole. The flag few over the Capitol in March. Veterans’ Day Committee member Joe Dickerson said it will be flown on special occasions. In its place a larger flag was raised.

Musical performances featured Chris Jernigan along with Reverend Arthur and Becky Warren.

Veterans’ Day Committee member, William Whitley who served in WWII in the 29th division of the Army with Dickerson, said he looks forward to Veterans’ Day. He said it allows veterans in the community to get together and meet each other.

“It’s just a special day,” he said. “We need to do it for those who protected our freedom.”

Dickerson said the program went well, however, he wished there were more young people in the crowd.