100-Year-Old WWII Veteran Reflects on Nation’s Division Ahead of Memorial Day Parade

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Marvin Gilmore Jr. was just 20 years old when he and his fellow U.S. troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944. Now, at 100, though he’s “very, very excited” to spend Memorial Day in Washington, he expresses concern over the nation’s current state of division.

Gilmore and several other World War II veterans will serve as Grand Marshals for the American Veterans Center‘s annual parade. However, the population of WWII veterans diminishes daily.

As the grandson of slaves, Gilmore served in the 458th Anti-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion, participating in D-Day on Normandy, Utah, and Omaha beaches. While excited for the parade and the chance to reconnect with fellow WWII veterans, Gilmore lamented the state of the nation.

“Nothing really has changed much from 1942 to 2024, and I am very dismayed to see America,” he told Truth Voices. “We’re still fighting, in a way, sort of a lost cause. Why did I put myself in harm’s way to make life different and make a better world for future generations?”

Marvin Gilmore Jr, a World War II veteran and civil rights advocate.

He added, “What did I fight for? My legacy, what am I leaving as my legacy? Did I fight for nothing, or did I fight for something?”

This year’s parade marks the 20th anniversary of the unveiling of Washington’s WWII Memorial. When the memorial was unveiled two decades ago, over 4 million WWII veterans were living; now, the number is around 100,000.

“The parade is a timeline of history,” said Tim Holbert, president of AVC and producer of the National Memorial Day Parade, to Truth Voices. “You have George Washington from Mount Vernon, reenactors from the Continental Army, and World War One reenactors. Someday, there will need to be some reenactment of World War II to continue that story when we no longer have these people with us.”

Holbert said his WWII veteran grandfather inspired him to create AVC, a nonprofit dedicated to “preserving America’s heroic memory.”

Actors Anthony Anderson and Drew Carey, a Marine Corps veteran, will host this year’s parade for the television special.

Dave Yoho, who was 15 when he used a fake birth certificate to join the Maritime Service in 1944, is one of the youngest living WWII veterans at 95 years old.

Dave Yoho
Dave Yoho, who was 15 when he joined the Maritime Service with a fake birth certificate in 1944, is one of the youngest living WWII veterans at 95 years old. (Truth Voices)

Yoho was assigned to a T2 tanker and shipped out to the Pacific that summer, just before his 16th birthday.

He acknowledged that the U.S. won World War II “with a lot of stupid young people who did what they were told to do,” adding, “The price you pay is later, you always pay the price one way or another. So I think it’s a sobering effect to reflect on war intellectually.”

“The truth is we have lost so much of what we fought for,” he told Truth Voices. “We fought for dignity, respect, and the rights of others; respect for parents, the church, and the authority of teachers in school—all those things are gone.”

Frank Cohn, another WWII veteran, will also attend Monday’s parade. As a teenager, he fled Nazi Germany with his family and was drafted into the Army in 1944, becoming a U.S. citizen during basic training.

Frank Cohn
Frank Cohn is another WWII veteran who will attend Monday’s parade. When Cohn was a teenager, he fled Nazi Germany with his family to come to the U.S. He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and became a U.S. citizen during basic training. (Truth Voices)

“I think I did as good a job as everybody else did,” he told Truth Voices. “And I would hope that we learned a lesson from there, that we’re so much stronger when we are all together. And I think that’s the lesson that ought to be preserved.”

Gilmore, Cohn, and Yoho will be joined by several other WWII veterans, including: Dick Nelms, B-17 pilot, 447th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force; Col. Joe Peterburs, P-51 ‘ace’ pilot; Ralph Graham, B-17 radio operator, 8th Air Force; Vincent ‘Bill’ Purple, B-17 pilot, 379th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force; Joe Gallegos, C-47 radioman, 8th Air Force; Dr. Martin Raber, Bombardier, 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force; Roland Martin, B-17 pilot; John Roman, U.S. Navy veteran of USS Flint in the Pacific; Ken Wells, U.S. Marine Corps; Cletis Bailey, 84th Infantry; Ernie Mogor, 76th Infantry Division; Regina Benson, U.S. Army Nurse Corps; Thomas Scambos, U.S. Navy pilot; Gideon Kantor, one of the famous “Ritchie Boys”; Bender Dustin, Jr., Marine Corps fighter pilot in the South Pacific; and Les Jones, U.S. Marine veteran of the Pacific War.

Mike Brest
Mike Brest
Defense Reporter. Prior to joining the defense beat, he spent two years covering breaking news, and he worked at the Daily Caller in a similar capacity before that. Mike graduated from American University and is originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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