Weekly Columns

As a pilot in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II flying C-47s and C-46s, Ray Randall said he “had to use all kinds of ingenuity.” The dangerous transport missions required him to fly over “The Hump” among the Himalayas to provide American and Chinese forces supplies necessary to defeat the Japanese. 

Randall has always been humble about his actions during the war. “I was glad to do what I did and I was glad to get back,” he recently said.

The Arkansas veteran graciously shared his memories of his selfless service for the Veterans History Project (VHP), a Library of Congress initiative that preserves the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. His stories are characteristic of the bravery demonstrated by the Greatest Generation. They were ordinary Americans who were asked to do extraordinary things, and they did so with courage and determination. 

We’ve all heard the countless stories of valor and selflessness of Allied troops as they faced unimaginable circumstancesduring the harrowing campaigns in Europe, Asia and Africa. Their backgrounds and experiences were certainly different, but they were united by their belief in doing whatever was necessary to protect freedom, defeat Fascism and defend their nation.  

The VHP is a great way to honor the legacies of these brave individuals and preserve their memories of military service. Those World War II veterans who are still alive are in their 90s or older, so our time to elicit their knowledge, wisdom and reflections on their unique position in one of history’s most remarkable and life-altering events is running short.

In 2004, we dedicated the World War II Memorial in our nation’s capital to pay tribute to the millions of Americans who served in uniform. It is a place to reflect upon and honor the heroism and commitment they displayed to rid the world of tyranny as well as acknowledge the sacrifices of so many. We honor the more than 400,000 Americans who died in the conflict and the countless men and women who supported the effort on the home front.

This recognition was long overdue. Thanks to programs like the Honor Flight, World War II veterans from across the country have had the opportunity to see the memorial that attests to their valor and service to our country. I’ve had the privilege of visiting with Arkansas veterans who have participated in this program. It’s a powerful reminder that freedom isn’t free; it’s paid for by brave Americans who have fought to secure a peaceful, safe and free future. 

We should always ensure this memorial continues to stand as a testament to the service and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation. That’s why I support the Greatest Generation Memorial Act, legislation to authorize the U.S. Department of Treasury to mint commemorative coins of the memorial with proceeds used to finance much-needed repairs and maintenance for this shrine. 

In recent years, large and growing cracks in the memorial’s granite pillars required it to be temporarily closed. While the National Park Service is responsible for its upkeep, there is a $12 billion capital construction backlog. Providing a source of funding to support the immediate restoration needs of the memorial, as this bill does, is appropriate and necessary.  

We are incredibly proud of the service of Ray Randall and the millions of other Americans who valiantly served in World War II. We must continue to show our appreciation by passing the Greatest Generation Memorial Act so future generations can pay tribute to these heroes.