Hundreds of WW II veterans in North Charleston celebration recognized for sacrifice, shared history
Paul Harper knows a thing or two about sacrifice.
As the nation began its engagement in World War II, the Navy veteran dropped out of The Citadel to join the effort.
He served on five ships, fighting in both the European and Pacific theaters.
Finally, he returned and became a Bulldog of another sort, graduating from the University of Georgia in January 1949, he said. There, he saw the sacrifices Americans made on the home front, cooperating with rations on food and fuel.
“It’s like the saying goes,” Harper said. “All gave some, some gave all.”
Harper and nearly 300 other World War II veterans were recognized for their sacrifices at a celebration hosted by U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Saturday morning.
They were addressed by George Patton Waters, the grandson of legendary Gen. George Patton. Midway through his remarks, he paused to pull a pair of combat boots from beneath his podium. They were his grandfather’s.
“I brought these not to kick someone with as he might have,” Waters said, “but to have an actual part of him in this room.”
Likewise, the sense of history was all but tangible in the North Charleston Convention Center.
As Scott meandered through the rows of veterans and gave each a certificate and pin, many stopped to shake his hand and share their stories. The process lasted hours. An announcer who’d been reading each serviceman’s name eventually stopped, and Scott pressed on, guzzling bottles of water along the way.
Shortly before, he’d asked them to reach back and reflect on that history.
“Go back in time and remember what you did to sacrifice,” he said.
That history is fleeting, though, and Scott said he thinks now is the time to appreciate and acknowledge these veterans, who he said “saved the world as we know it.”
A list of the veterans honored is dotted with asterisks marking the names of the deceased. The rows of veterans were peppered with sons and daughters and other family there to represent them.
“I believe you’ve got to give them roses while they’re living,” Scott said in a later interview.
But the World War II veterans bookended only one side of the stretch of history represented Saturday. Cadets from Wando High School’s Air Force JROTC formed a color guard to represent the other.
Between them were veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars, such as James Kenney.
He was a Navy captain in Vietnam and displayed part of his collection of vintage standard issue equipment that hearkened to his time in the service.
And as he watched hundreds of his predecessors recognized, Kenney knew it would just be a matter of time before he and his colleagues get a final salute.
“I’m the next wave,” he said.
Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360.
or on Twitter @thadmoore.