HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- They arrived from the four corners of Virginia. Aging veterans answering one last call of duty. Each of the veterans who filed into the University of Richmond has a rich story to tell.
In the works for nearly two years, the World War I and World War II Commission’s “Dawn of Infamy” shined the spotlight on veterans from legendary battles from Okinowa and The Battle of the bulge to Iwo Jima and D-Day.
In one of the last large gatherings of its kind, nearly 100 veterans embarked on a final mission at the University of Richmond.
Sharing the spotlight on the day was 95-year-old Violet Parker.
“I thought it was a good fight. My brother was in it. My sister was in it,” said Parker.
Parker who emigrated from the United Kingdom, returned to England as a member of the Canadian Royal Air Force to fight the Germans. Violet joined an all-female unit station on the coast of England.
“All through the war. Till the war was finished,” said Parker. “They didn’t know we were women. They thought we were men.”
Parker was no shrinking violet during the war. Parker fired anti-aircraft guns at the enemy. As a flight mechanic she repaired damaged planes like the British Spitfire and pulled out wounded pilots.
“Some come back in wounded and some come in with pilots that were dead, just like if they were OK. But they weren’t. They were all dead,” she said.
Parker is grateful to have survived, but she often thinks of those who didn’t.
On this, the 75th anniversary of the United States entering the war, Parker was honored to be part of such a special ceremony with fellow World War II veterans.
Still, she doesn’t think she did anything special. Just her duty. A patriotism that runs deep even after all of these years.
“We were there to fight and we believed in freedom,” said Parker. “I always imagine if there was another war, no matter how much I hate killing, I would join. Our flag will be still there,” she said tearfully.
Three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Rick Atkinson, was the keynote speaker at the “Dawn of Infamy” event.
Dozens of other WWII veterans who were unable to attend the ceremony in Richmond watched the ceremony that was simulcast at Sitter Barfoot Veterans Care Facility.
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