Just as in thousands of other rural areas and small towns, Americans faced a major upheaval in their daily lives and grave uncertainties about their future.
There were individual exceptions everywhere, of course. But for the most part, the members of a generation that had come of age in the Great Depression did not waste any time or emotional energy on self-pity.
“From the beginning of this country,” said Benton veteran J.C. Jones, “every generation has been called upon to defend it. We didn’t consider ourselves any different.”
Jones’ comments reveal that although he and his contemporaries did not live what would be considered privileged lives, they considered themselves quite privileged.
“We were a product of hard times,” he said. “We took our duty seriously.”
Jones went into the Army with a group of friends and fellow Marshall County natives. Most of them stayed together in the same unit, trained together and went overseas together.
All of them did not come home.
Jones alluded to the best-selling book by Stephen Ambrose and the HBO miniseries based on it, both titled “Band of Brothers.”
“That’s what we were,” he said.
Those who did come home went about living the rest of their lives in much the same manner in which they had taken on the job of winning the war. There were tumultuous celebrations of the surrenders first of Germany and then Japan, but the surviving WWII vets mostly came home, hugged their loved ones and quietly resumed the lives that had been so rudely interrupted.
Not quite a decade after they completed that job, President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 26, 1954, signed into law a bill establishing Veterans Day on Nov. 11 of each year.
American honors all its veterans Friday, from the youngest, the still-young men and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the oldest – those of the World War II generation.
According to the Veterans Administration, a little more than two million are still alive today, and some 850 pass away each day. According to projections, in another 25 years or so, none will be left.
But what they selflessly accomplished in uniform will endure as long as freedom itself.