For World War II, more than 16 million men and women served the United States. Known as the greatest generation, these days their numbers are dwindling. In 2016, only around 600,000 of these veterans were reported to be alive.
For one Kerman veteran on the this week’s Honor Flight, Jasper “Jay” DeBartolo, being able to visit the World War II Memorial was a new way to honor his fallen comrades.
He served in the army in several Asian countries during World War II. After his time in-service, he spent 15 years in the honor guard, providing funeral honors for many veterans in the Central Valley. Many of them having served in his war.
“I would drive 75 miles up and 75 miles back to Santa Nella,” DeBartolo said. “We did six to eight funerals in one day.”
DeBartolo has seen many of his friends pass away over the years. He said out of the 15 people in his honor guard group, only four are alive today.
“A lot of my good friends have died, it’s unbelievable. It’s really hard when things happen like that,” he said.
Despite all of the loss, seeing DeBartolo look around the memorial was like watching a kid in a candy store. It’s because he knew all of his friends were there with him in spirit.
“Lot of good memories,” he said of his time in-service.
DeBartolo was accompanied by his daughter, Connie Kawaguchi, on the Honor Flight. He said it made the visit even more special since he got to do it with her.