The so-called Greatest Generation did a lot more than just save the world by fighting to bring World War II to an end Aug. 14, 1945.
That’s at least in the mind of the man who served as the guest speaker for Sunday’s V-J Day service at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour.
Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, the former adjutant general of Indiana, said those men and women who went off to fight in World War II didn’t have it easy before the war.
“They were born during the Depression,” he said. “Most of them had very, very little. Most of the jobs you had, if you had a job, was labor intensive. They were just happy to be in America. They were happy to be alive.”
That all changed Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
“They went off to save the world,” Umbarger said. “They saved the world of tyranny. They saved the world of Nazism. They saved the world of expansion by the Japanese empire.”
And then they came back home.
“They just got back into society,” he said. “They started working. They had children like myself.”
Umbarger said those veterans really just wanted one thing — life to be better for their children.
“They didn’t ask for anything,” he said.
Umbarger said about 10 years ago, he had the chance to participate in Seymour’s V-J Day Parade.
“Your community has the most continuous event like you’re having today to thank our wonderful World War II veterans that saved the world,” Umbarger said. “And there’s been a parade every year for 74 years, if I’m not mistaken, and this year, it (the parade) wasn’t to be.”
But despite the cancellation of the parade, a V-D Day service was planned and organized by members of VFW 1925 and others.
Umbarger said he wanted to compliment the community for continuing to commemorate V-J Day.
“… because we cannot forget all those that have gone before us — generation after generation — for this country of ours,” Umbarger said.
He also took a minute to introduce two World War II veterans who were in attendance at the event, Sgt. Maj. Russell Byrkett and Sgt. Ray Newkirk, who was a radioman with the 90th Infantry Division.
Byrkett, 92, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Umbarger said it would be rare to find anyone with the same record of service to his country within the 365 million people living in America today.
“I think we are all honored that we would have Russ as your citizen, and I am proud to be with him,” Umbarger said. “God bless you, Russ, and thanks for your service.”
As a radioman, Newkirk served in an essential role of providing communication up and down the chain of command, Umbarger said.
“So, Ray, I know how important your job was,” he said. “I know how valuable you were to your commanders that you served, and I will tell you there has never been one RTO that wasn’t one sharp dude. I am really proud of you and proud of your service.”
Post Commander Rick Roberts said the names of the other veterans in attendance Sunday and introduced the honor guard, who later provided a 21-gun salute after a flag presentation ceremony outside the post.
After the service, Roberts said he was pleased with the way the service went but was disappointed with the turnout.
“I wish a few more people were here,” he said.
Roberts declined to discuss the future of the V-J Day Parade.