A group of World War Two veterans who call themselves the “Jungle Air Force” are having a reunion in Des Moines and went to the capitol grounds to see the World War II memorial. Max Olson of Cambridge, Iowa who served in the Pacific toward the end of the war is among them. Unlike other flying units, Olson says those in the Pacific carved out landing strips in the jungle and pitches their tents alongside — and that’s how they earned the nickname the “Jungle Air Force.” Olson says the former soldiers didn’t start having annual conventions until 45 years after the war had been over. He says everyone was busy with their jobs and raising families until they retired and started thinking about it. Governor Tom Vilsack welcomed the group of 135 veterans during a ceremony at the statehouse.Vilsack said it’s often difficult to properly commemorate the lives of those who’ve died fighting for the country, or died two years ago at the Pentagon, the World Trade Centers and that field in Pennsylvania.He says the veterans have provided us an appropriate example of how to remember all those Americans, but simply doing our job. Vilsack urged all Iowans to make a renewed commitment to country, family and community. Vilsack also asked the vets to tell their service stories. He says they have a unique view and vantage on American history and it’s imperative that they tell the story and then the stories get retold to each succeeding generation.
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