- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

World War II veterans yesterday mourned and praised their friends and companions who fought and died in the war whose European phase ended 60 years ago.

“We must remember the cost to the greatest generation,” said former Sen. Bob Dole, himself a war hero. Mr. Dole addressed 4,000 veterans, families and patriots gathered at the National World War II Memorial on the Mall for the occasion.

“It was our generation that carried the fight and won,” said retired Gen. Frederick James Kroesen Jr., whose medals include the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters. “We are proud to pass the mantle of freedom.”

Near the stage was a quilt with dozens of military unit patches, created for Pfc. Harry H. Lehman, a Marylander born in 1925 at Bryans Road. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Numerous spectators began crying when they saw the quilt and photograph of the paratrooper, who died Feb. 8, said his daughter, Debbie Prohaska, of Port Tobacco, Md.

Several men were confined to wheelchairs, but stood when all veterans were asked to rise for applause and praise.

Fit but slowed a bit by his 79 years was Stanley A. Wojtusik, of Philadelphia, past president of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.

The U.S. Marine Corps Band played “The Star Spangled Banner” and military service songs during the program.

Across the back of the stage were 16 foreign flags lined up alongside the Stars and Stripes. An announcer explained that several of the flags were those of nations that were once our enemies and are now our allies.

The flags included those of Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Russian Federation.

Mr. Dole said that on May 8, 1945, he was wounded and paralyzed from the neck down, “barely conscious of my surroundings in Italy.” He lost a kidney and required three years of medical care to regain physical health.

The war’s end liberated millions of Europeans, Mr. Dole said, “But we must remember the cost.”

Of 16 million American men in the service during World War II, only about 5 million still are alive, and they are dying at a rate of about 1,500 per day.

“They have gone from the greatest generation to the disappearing generation,” he said.

Mr. Dole hailed Congress for passing the GI Bill of Rights — “the single most important legislation in the last century” — which helped many veterans go through college, enter various employment programs and receive other aid.

Mr. Dole led a grass-roots campaign that brought in more than $160 million from more than 600,000 Americans to build the National World War II Memorial.

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