Reading about everyone’s thoughts on The Great War and what links we have found to connect with make me realize something. I am 38 years old. When I was a child in the 80’s, the last wave of World War 1 veterans were living as grandparents, speakers at elementary schools, and standing at attention honoring their departed friends at memorials. According to The Telegraph, the last living WWI veteran passed away just a few years ago at the age of 110. Florence Green joined the Women’s Royal Air Force of England during the war. And according to this source, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9066371/Last-surviving-veteran-of-First-World-War-dies-aged-110.html, she only served two months at an air base in England. But it is interesting to note that it still places her in league with those who served.
Two more last survivors who have passed and are recognized in this article issued February 7, 2012 include:
“Last May the only living male First World War combat veteran, British-born sailor Claude Choules, died in Australia at the age of 110.
Britain’s last survivor of the First World War trenches Harry Patch – known as ‘The Last Tommy’ – who died in July 2009 aged 111.” (The Telegraph, see link above)
We can listen to podcasts, watch old new footage, read books, and look at pictures. But we will never be able to shake the hand of a World War I veteran again. The 100th Anniversary of the end of World War 1 is coming, but we have lost every living person that connects us to that time. I’ve met Tuskegee Airmen, shaken the hand of a B-17 bomber pilot who was shot down during WWII, and listened to a WWI vet speak of his experiences at my elementary school in 1987. Is it enough to know I’ve made a small connection to people? They are flesh and blood in my mind and it feels like carrying that memory hurts because they are gone or will be gone by the time my daughters have grown up.