Memorial Day reflections
By Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I spent the Memorial Day holiday weekend in Chicago with family and friends. It was a good time to reflect on the sacrifices of the U.S. military men and women, especially those who served during the war in Iraq. This, after all, was the first Memorial Day since the war.
For me, it was also a good time to reflect on World War II because some of my relatives who were in Chicago lived through that awful war. As former Sen. Bob Dole also reminded me the other day, it's hard to believe it's been nearly 60 years since the end of the war. "No," Dole said, "I can't believe it."
The 1996 Republican presidential nominee turns 80 years old, by the way, on July 22. He correctly says it's so important for all Americans to recall now and then what happened 60 years ago -- specifically what the U.S. military men and women did "to keep America free."
Dole is not only talking about it; he is doing something about it. In recent years, he has spent a great deal of his time helping to get the World War II Memorial built on the National Mall -- not far from Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. He says the structure will be dedicated next Memorial Day -- on May 29, 2004. He says this will be a big dedication. He hopes 200,000 and maybe even 300,000 World War II veterans will be in the nation's capital for the event.
What is so sad for all of us is this -- the ranks of those veterans are dwindling. Dole, for example, notes that there were 16.5 million World War II veterans, but only five million are still alive. The 20 and 30-somethings of the war are today in their 70s and 80s and 90s. But every day, more of them leave us.
We need to hear their eyewitness accounts before it's too late. This is an excellent time for many of you to get your loved ones who lived through the war to speak out -- before the opportunity is gone. My suggestion: get them to talk about their experiences on video tape so that future generations will have a chance to learn about what happened.
"It's going to be a beautiful memorial," Dole says. I am sure he is right.