Coast veterans will visit National World War II Museum today
GULFPORT -- Veterans from around the Coast are headed to New Orleans today to pay homage to what journalist and author Tom Brokaw has deemed the "Greatest Generation," the men who bravely fought in World War II and helped to shape the modern U.S.
More than 200 veterans and their spouses are touring the National World War II Museum today courtesy of Riemann Family Funeral Homes in Gulfport in recognition of Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11.
"We started doing this four years ago, and we had about 50 people," trip organizer Veronica Romano said. "This started as a trip for World War II veterans, but we've opened it up to all veterans.
"We have more than 200 people making the trip this year. We serve so many veterans and their families that we wanted to do this as a way to say thank you."
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, there are about 19.6 million veterans in the U.S. and more than nine million of those veterans are ages 65 and older.
Less than 100,000 of living veterans served during World War II.
"We had about 50 World War II veterans on the first trip, and I think we have about five going on this year's trip," Romano said.
"It has really dwindled down. It's an older generation, and we are trying to get as much time with them as possible. It's so wonderful to be able to take them and hear their stories first-hand.
"The older veterans that attend our trips, the veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, their wars are so different than the current wars."
As the number of World War II veterans continues to diminish, there are about 7 million living veterans who served during the Vietnam era, according to the census.
Herb Edmonds, 71, of Gautier is a veteran of the Navy.
Edmonds, who is attending the trip to New Orleans, said he is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about those who served the country before him.
"I did seven years during Vietnam," he said. "I wasn't in country, but I was off the coast of Vietnam. I really enjoy making the trip to the museum.
"You can't imagine what it does for some of the veterans who go over there, especially the World War II ones. They thoroughly enjoy it."
Edmonds said he has also noticed the decline in World War II participants on the museum tour.
"The World War II veterans are dying at such a rapid rate," he said. "They used to be the main group of veterans but now it's the Vietnam guys."
With a large number of veterans now over the age of 55, Edmonds said the local support for older veterans has increased.
"I think the Coast is one of the best places in the country for veterans," Edmonds said. "There are so many support groups and organizations. As an older veteran, you can't beat the opportunities that are here."