A large Veterans Day crowd gathered at Veterans Park on Monday as The Albany American Legion Post 30 unveiled a monument to all the men and women of the American armed forces who served during World War II. (Staff Photo by Terry Lewis)
Albany World War II Monument unveiled
A monument to World War II veterans made possible by the American Legion Post 30 is unveiled nov. 11, 2013 at Veterans Park in downtown Albany. (Video by Jim Hendricks)
ALBANY — On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese hammered Pearl Harbor in a surprise air attack that pushed the United States into World War II and forever changed the course of history.
The war lasted more than four years and more than 16 million individuals served as members of the American armed forces. The U.S. suffered 291,557 battle deaths, 113,842 non-theater deaths and 670,846 non-fatal woundings.
Albany Veterans Day National Anthem 2013
John Everett, 92, of Albany, sings "The Star Spangled-Banner," including the final verse. The performance took place Monday during the dedication of the World War II Monument at Albany's Veterans Park. Everett flew F6F Hellcats from carriers during World War II.
Late last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that just more than 1,400,000 American WWII veterans were still living and their median age was 94. The Department also estimated that nearly 700 of these veterans die each day.
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On Monday before an overflow crowd at Veterans Park in recognition of Veterans Day, the Albany American Legion Post 30 unveiled a massive granite monument to those former soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.
“America has celebrated Veterans Day since 1919,” Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said during the dedication ceremony. “But we are here to celebrate the men and women who served, fought and died for our freedoms in World War II. This monument will stand as a reminder to the people of Southwest Georgia that the sacrifices of the men and women who served will not be forgotten.
“Some of the men are sitting here among us. Today, we honor you.”
Before the unveiling, the crowd was treated to a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by 92-year-old Navy veteran John Everett, who sang the first and fourth verses of the national anthem.
“The first verse is really just a conversation with Francis Scott Key,” Everett, who flew F6F Hellcats off the USS Lexington during the war, said. “The fourth verse is more patriotic and not many people know it even exists.”
The old Navy pilot said he enjoyed the day, especially the monument’s unveiling.
“Today was a wonderful experience for me,” he said. “I was really impressed when they removed the cover from the monument.”
Everett entered the war in 1942 and left the Navy in 1946.
“The first fighters we flew were F4 Wildcats, and they were entirely inadequate,” Everett recalled. “Then they gave us the Hellcats and that was a wonderful aircraft to fly. We enjoyed a 19-to-1 victory margin with that plane. I chalk that up to a superior aircraft and superior training.”
Fellow Navy veteran Alvin Wallace also appreciated the day.
“I was very excited,” Wallace, 94, said. “I was proud the people have decided to honor us this way.”
Silas Barnes, 91, of Putney, was a Marine who served on Corregidor and Bataan. He was one of 86,000 Americans and Filipinos taken prisoner when the Japanese finally conquered the Philippines in May 1942.
When asked how long he was held prisoner, Barney did not hesitate when he replied: “Three years, four months and two days.”
But that dark period was not at the forefront of his thoughts on Monday.
“It is great to see all of these people here who came out to celebrate the vets and this beautiful memorial,” Barnes said. “This is an excellent display of patriotism and I am very happy to be a part of it.”