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Remembering One of The Greatest Generation's Finest Moments

Walter Stitt, age 99; Anthony Pagano, age 97; Robert Pedigo, age 100; Bob Gibson, age 100; Jack Hemmings; Fred Taylor and Bill Wall. What do they all have in common besides being centenarians or near centenarians? 80 years ago they all participated in one of the most important battles ever fought in world history. June 6, 1944 - D-Day - the invasion of Normandy, France. This week these and many other veterans who survived this battle returned to the shores of France to remember their exploits and the many fallen comrades who died there.

Of the more than 23,000 allied paratroopers and 132,000 troops who crossed the English Channel into France that day over 4,400 were killed. By the end of Normandy Campaign at least 73,000 allied troops had been killed and another 153,000 were wounded. The veterans named above are but a handful of approximate 119,550 brave souls who served in WWII and are still living.

Very few, consider themselves heroes or their deeds extraordinary and yet they are our greatest generation. Ordinary people, young kids who in some instances lied about their age to make themselves older, who answered the call without hesitation, regret or consternation "because it was the right thing to do."

We all owe them our respect and gratitude. As I look around and see what has happened to our country since that time - the fractionalism, the "what is in it for me" attitude, the selfishness and unbridled and senseless lawlessness and violence for the sake of violence, I think about what these remaining good souls think about our country and what has happened to it.

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of calling a close friend of mine who was and is a part of this great generation. His name is James Sileno and he lives in a modest house in Deerfield Beach, Florida. "Jimmy" as he likes to be known is 99 years of age and looking forward to his 100 birthday. He was a fighter pilot in WWII and served in the European Theater of War. He is sharp as a tack, still rides a bicycle and until this year was playing golf. Ever hopeful, he just bought a new car with a three-year maintenance free package. I had the distinct pleasure to talk to him about his recollections of 80 years ago. He told me that at age 17 he and his friend skipped high school one day and went to enlist in the Air Force - "because it was the right thing to do." We shared other memories from that time.

Jimmy is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth, genuine, modest, calm, respectful person I know. He has and continues to enrich my life every time I talk to him. Today, let us all say a prayer and a thank you to all of the Jimmies, still present and gone for their courage, selflessness and generosity of spirit.

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