Almanac

Cover Story - November 10, 2010

Veterans Day: Keeping the 'Spirit of '45 Alive'

Submitted by Warren Hegg, a former Menlo Park resident who is the national supervisor for "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!" — a grassroots initiative to establish an annual day to honor the men and women of the World War II generation.

A group of local area seniors, who have been participating in a national effort to preserve the legacy of the World War II generation, will be honored during a special Veterans Day event at Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway in Redwood City, on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Murray Hunt, Virginia Reynolds, Earl Unze, Diana Gutierrez, Murle Webb, Ruth Henders, and Dr. Duane and Hildred Merrill were among the first participants in Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!, a national grassroots initiative to establish a permanent annual day of remembrance on the second Sunday in every August. All are residents of Woodside Terrace in Redwood City, which was one of several senior living communities that helped launch the project last year.

Congress passed legislation earlier this year officially endorsing a National Spirit of '45 Day, and more than 500 communities across the country held various public events on Aug. 14 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, featuring music from the 1940s, re-enactors, proclamations from local and state government officials, and announcements at all 15 major league baseball games.

National Spirit of '45 Day is a time for all America to stop and reflect on the achievements of the ordinary men and women of the "Greatest Generation" so that their example of courage, self-sacrifice, can-do attitude, and commitment to service and community will forever inspire future generations.

Youth are being mobilized to help seniors upload their stories and photographs to the project's website. A team of youth volunteers will be on hand at the Redwood City Veterans Day event to scan the wartime portrait photos of World War II veterans so that they can be archived in a national database and displayed in their community during future Spirit of '45 Days.

The idea of an annual day originated with Edith Shain, the nurse who was photographed by Life magazine being kissed by a joyous sailor in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, the day America learned that Japan had surrendered and the war was over.

Ms. Shain, who passed away in June, met with Woodside Terrace residents during a visit to the Bay Area in April to promote Spirit of '45.

"It was our generation's 'Greatest Day," she said. "We had endured the Depression, overcome the forces of tyranny that were threatening the whole world, and then turned from the work of war to helping not only our allies but our former enemies rebuild their countries."

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive! is being led by the Digital Clubhouse Network, a nonprofit organization created with the support of NASA in 1996 by former SRI International executive and Menlo Park resident, Warren Hegg.

The Spirit of '45 initiative is attracting the support of corporate sponsors, including VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, which is working with the senior living industry to assure that as many of the surviving men and women of the World War II era are able to participate.

Visit spiritof45.org for more information and to read the stories being submitted.

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