Spirit of 45 ceremony marks 76th anniversary of WWII ending

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MONTEVALLO – The Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery continued its tradition of remembering and honoring “the greatest generation” with its Keep the Spirit of 45 Alive Ceremony at the Alabama National Cemetery on Saturday, Aug. 14.

The group did not let the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II on Aug. 14, 1945 go unnoticed.

“This past Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, passed by without mention in the media, or at least, I heard no mention of one of the most important days in the history of the world,” said Pam Nichols, chairwoman of the SCALNC.

Aug. 14,1945 lives forever in the minds of the few remaining members of the greatest generation who lived it; the day that WWII ended and the United States of America played the pivotal role in saving the world from tyranny.

At 6:30 p.m., an audience made up mostly of dependents of WWII veterans looked on as ceremony emcee Nathan Waller, attired in a WWII era soldier’s uniform, welcomed those who had come to share memories of heroes and honor both those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who served so long ago.

As a part of the program, Waller, who is also a SCALNC member and grandson of WWII veterans, shared details of his uniform and equipment as a symbolic salute to those who served.

His uniform was that of a WWII U.S. Army soldier in 1945.

The program also included a special prayer of remembrance by SCALNC Chaplain and Navy veteran Duke Martin; presentation of the colors by Bessemer Squadron Civil Air Patrol cadets; the national anthem sung by Rob Robinson, grandson of LP Robinson, WWII civilian support staff for the U.S. Army; and the pledge of allegiance, led by Pelham Troop 404 Boy Scouts Lucas and Cruz Kalba.

Guests of honor included two WWII veterans, George Hamilton, U.S. Navy, 99 years old; and William B. Jones, U.S. Navy, who will be 95 in December.

Phylis Wojciechowski, a Gold Star family member whose father was killed in WWII, was also present to stand in honor of her father.

Other children and grandchildren of WWII veterans shared period photos and enjoyed the display tables of hundreds of such photos.

An important component of the ceremony is a wreath laying in honor of those who lost their lives during the war, as well as the many WWII veterans who have since passed away since the end of the war.

This year’s wreath, which was donated by the Lily of the Cahaba Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was laid by Tom Long, an SCALNC member, U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran and son of WWII veteran SMSgt. Jack Allyn Long.

With his parents’ permission, at 17, Jack Long enlisted in the U.S. Army. After completing basic training, he was deployed to Tunisia, French Morocco. Only three weeks after arriving in theater, he was wounded and captured by Field Marshal Rommel’s forces and sent to Stalag 3B near Furstenberg, Germany, where he spent the remainder of WWII as a POW.

Repatriated in 1945, after 27 months in captivity, Long was honorably discharged and later joined the U.S. Air Force. He died in 1976 at 53 and was interned in the Veterans Section of Jefferson Memorial Gardens in Hoover. Long was reinterred at the Alabama National Cemetery in November 2019.

At 7 p.m. Eastern War Time on Aug. 14, 1945, President Harry Truman revealed Japan’s unconditional surrender, marking the end of the deadliest war in history. To mark that moment in time, the Spirit of 45 ceremony concluded at 7 p.m. with the playing of Taps by Matthew Horn from Bugles Across America and grandson of a WWII veteran, followed by a moment of silence.

Both WWII veterans in attendance vowed to be back for next year’s ceremony.

“Given the perseverance of the greatest generation, I fully expect to share this time with them again next year,” Nichols said.