Updated: Friday, 08 May 2009, 6:43 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 08 May 2009, 6:04 PM EDT
PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) - Every year for nearly two decades, they've gathered once a year to renew friendships and remember what brought them together.
This year, the group visited Kalamazoo's Air Zoo, touring the restoration section of the museum.
Their host -- and fellow Company A, First Battalion, 7th Marines member -- Peter Parish is a retired Marine colonel who remembers hitting Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942.
"First experience was a naval bombardment the night we landed. And that's pretty frightening anytime," said Parish, who survived the battles and eventually settled in Kalamazoo. He established a successful career with Upjohn and raised a family.
In the 1970s he helped found the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.
Parish's life story is not much different from others who fought
in World War II. They accomplished what was an insurmountable task,
then returned home and moved on.
It's tough to get these men to brag about their accomplishments.
"Well, my own sense is that war is not much fun. True. But when you're exposed to it you get used to it and you adjust to it," he said.
But this vital reminder of America's history is disappearing.
According to the Defense Department, there are some 2.3 million surviving World War Two veterans in the U.S. But they're dying at a rate of over 14,000 a year.
"Off hand, this year, there will be 16 of us. We've been as high as 24, 25. Maybe a little higher than that," said Parish.
Those voices won't be totally lost. There are the history books. And the Internet is providing a new way to preserve the stories.
Parish sees some optimistic signs that their efforts are not forgotten.
"I'm suprised at the number of people that I run into. Because of my age now, they'll ask me, 'Did you serve in World War Two?' and I say I did and they'll say, 'Boy, we thank you."