Over 200 Iowa Veterans gathered in Des Moines for the annual Veterans Day observance. The Marine Corps hymn was one of the many patriotic songs played during the event at Veterans Auditorium. The featured speaker was Luther Smith, a Des Moines native and member of the famed World War Two Tuskegee Airmen.
Smith was severely injured and captured after his plane was damaged in a strafing run of a train on what was to be his final mission. Smith says that Friday the 13th in 1944 was the most depressing day of his life — until he came to the realization that he was almost killed four times on that day, but out of all the people who died in World War Two, he was alive.
Smith was determined to make the most of his chance to cheat death and went on to do everything he could to live a life to pay back whatever it was that kept him from dying that day. Smith says many Americans don’t understand the meaning of Veterans Day, even though there are many veterans living among us.He says nearly half of all the men and women who’ve served in our military since the Revolutionary War are still alive today.
Smith says unfortunately, the numbers for one group of veterans is dwindling. He says there are only five million World War Two veterans still alive today, He says their average age is 82, and they’re dying at a rate of 1,100 a day.