DENVER (KDVR) – Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, approximately 240,000 veterans still live. One group has made it their mission to ensure that the service and sacrifices of these heroes are remembered, honored and, most importantly, never forgotten.
This country is rapidly losing members of the “greater generation,” according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
William Wilburn enlisted in the United States Army right out of high school and served in occupied Germany during World War II. He was a mechanic in the 614 Tank Destroyer Battalion.
âIn Germany, we had to hide from the Germans,â he said, describing this chapter of his life. “(We) couldn’t go out anywhere after dark.”
âEveryone loves to be appreciated, but the sacrifices these guys made we can never understand,â said his son, Derrick Wilburn. âSleeping in crawl spaces under a tank, eating (small meals) and freezing at night – the sacrifices they made for freedom, no one understands them except them. “
William’s grown children don’t even fully understand these sacrifices, mainly because their father rarely spoke about his time in service.
Derrick Wilburn tries to figure it out regardless, writing in his blog: âOne of the interesting things that happens when you move old people is you start to go through things and discover things. In doing so, I found my father’s old army papers, enlistment and release papers included.
Wilburn had a long list of decorations, citations and medals and was honorably released a year after the war ended in 1946.
It was not uncommon for WWII veterans not to receive medals, as it was common practice then to hand out ribbons instead.
âSir, I have the honor to award you the third medal here, which is ‘occupation of the German army’,â said a member of the Association of the United States Army and the Salute Colorado group who awarded Wilburn the long-awaited Commendation.
The service of Wilburn and the millions of men and women who stood by his side during one of the world’s darkest hours may not have been well known, individually, but it is something that should never be forgotten.
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