They are literally a dying breed. Many decades ago, they were the only force facing a global onslaught of fascism. Today, if they are still alive, they are old men with pasts worth remembering and celebrating. And Harry Martin is among that dwindling number. The 95-year-old Martin, former longtime head of the Community Development Foundation, is a World War II veteran. He will be joined with other veterans of that great conflict as they are celebrated in a ceremony held by the Tupelo Veterans Museum, Lee County Veteran Service Office and American Legion Post #49 Thursday, July 1, at the Civic Auditorium (Tupelo Middle School), 6-8 p.m. There is no charge for attending and doors open at 5 p.m. The event will honor local World War II veterans and includes a presentation from the Quilts of Valor Foundation to several Lee County veterans of the war that lasted from 1941 to 1945 and stretched across much of the world. Quilts of Valor is a national volunteer organization whose members design and make quilts that are presented to veterans of that war; they have distributed thousands of quilts to those veterans. There will be “special” music and a guest speaker, Tom Brown. Michael Pettigrew, Lee County Veterans Service Officer and commander of the Legion post, said about 15 World War II veterans remain in the area: “Our goal is to get six to 10 of them there that evening,” he said. At this point, the remaining veterans are in their 90s, if they are still around. According to the National World War 2 Museum in New Orleans, 245 World War II veterans die every day, on average. Martin, on the other hand, maintains a varied schedule that includes working with his real estate company: “I still get some walking in,” he said of his longtime habit of early-morning mall walks. Martin’s stint in the service was spent primarily in training to be a navigator on a heavy bomber. The war ended before he could be assigned to a combat unit. “We were given the options of staying in another five years or going home,” said Martin. “I came home.” Of the upcoming ceremony, Pettigrew said, “This may be our last opportunity.”
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