A Fitting Tribute to the Greatest Generation
By Rep. Kristi Noem
On May 8, 1945, Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, ending World War II in Europe and claiming victory over one of history’s cruelest regimes. Seventy years later, we continue to remember the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation that led to this incredible victory on what has become known as Victory in Europe Day – or VE Day.
It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like stepping into a soldier’s boots during World War II. The fighting was gruesome, and while we know now that victory was ultimately achieved, these young Americans didn’t have that assurance 70-some years ago when they were leaving their families to head overseas. They were just ordinary folks – farmers, mechanics, students, and others – plunged into the uncertainty of a massive conflict poised to reset the course of human history. More than 68,000 South Dakotans enlisted in the armed services during World War II, according to the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, while others stayed behind to work in supporting roles to ensure our military had the equipment and means to achieve victory.
Today, just over 2,500 World War II veterans remain in South Dakota, according to the National World War II Museum. Each came from ordinary lives and rose to accomplish extraordinary things before returning to once again transform America from within. My appreciation for these men and women runs deep.
I’ve had the opportunity to sit with a number of these veterans and their families. Time and again, their stories of bravery inspire me and help me see the power of the American spirit. As the years go by, these stories are being transferred from generation to generation and it’s my hope that we never lose those accounts. They are an American treasure.
The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project has been established to help preserve these stories. Through the project, the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is collecting first-hand documents and oral accounts from our veterans, preserving them for future generations to learn from. It’s an incredible project that enables each of us to hear the stories of the Greatest Generation from the veterans themselves and better understand the realities of war. You can learn more about this effort on the Veterans History Project website at www.loc.gov/vets.
Seventy years after claiming victory in Europe, we continue our fight for freedom in the world. It is my hope that this VE Day served to remind all of us that America can and will defeat evil and claim victory for liberty around the globe.