Eight World War II veterans — the youngest of them age 96 — will join President Trump at a wreath-laying ceremony Friday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. Their hopes to mark the day in Moscow were dashed because of the coronavirus crisis.
White House officials described the veterans as “choosing nation over self” by joining Trump at the World War II Memorial ceremony.
“These heroes are living testaments to the American spirit of perseverance and victory, especially in the midst of dark days,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
The veterans joining Trump include Gregory Melikian, 97, of Phoenix, who sent the coded message to the world that the Germans had unconditionally surrendered.
Participants in the D-Day invasion that turned the tide in the war include Steven Melnikoff, 100, of Cockeysville, Md.; Guy Whidden, 97, of Braddock Heights, Md.; Harold Angle, 97, of Chambersburg, Pa.; and Frank Devita, 96, of Bridgewater, N.J.
Other veterans joining Trump are Donald Halverson, 97, of Minnesota, who fought in some of the war’s fiercest fighting in Italy; John Coates, 96, of Maryland, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge; and Jack Myers, 97, of Hagerstown, Md., who was part of a unit that liberated the Nazis’ Dachau concentration camp.
Timothy Davis, director of the Greatest Generations Foundation, which helps veterans return to the countries where they fought, said the U.S. soldiers were originally slated to travel to Moscow for a commemoration event. He said that with international travel out of the question during the pandemic, the veterans talked to him about trying to commemorate the day in Washington.
“Of course, we presented to them the risk we are facing,” Davis said. “They said, ‘It doesn’t matter, Tim.’”
Davis said the veterans asked him to forge ahead, saying they viewed the commemoration as “a blessing to all who fought, died and served in World War II.”