Veterans at WW2 commemorations

Veterans traditionally play a central role in WW2 commemorations.

Veterans at Omaha Beach Cemetery
Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach – Veterans attend 6 June Commemorations every year

Veterans as living testimonies

WW2 was a momentous event and remembrance services are important to honour the sacrifices made and the lives lost. They will be the centre of attention during the events highlighting the 80th anniversary of many key battles and turning points in 1944.

But there is no denying that their ranks are dwindling fast and the number that is still able to travel is even smaller. So where does that leave future commemorations?

The absence of veterans should not diminish the importance of remembrance. Instead, it presents an opportunity to reshape the way in which we remember this pivotal period and its key players.

New opportunities for commemorations

While fortunately we do still have veterans with us, some different formats have already started to emerge.

The annual FFNV (Friends and Families of the Nisei Veterans) Reunion has been around for many years and provided an opportunity for the vets to reminisce about their experiences with war buddies. More and more, those who weren’t there got to listen in to their stories. Soon it will be up to those who listened to retell the stories. New technology – like the hologram representation of Lawson Sakai – is helping to preserve the stories.

Another innovative way to experience remembrance in a different form is “Defining Courage”, produced by David Ono. This interactive program tells the story of the Nisei, from the internment camps to their return from the war. During the latest edition, veterans on stage were surprised by the appreciation shown by the audience.

Battlefield tours are not new, but again provide an excellent opportunity for remembrance in a different format. It is unlikely that any vets will join on any more tours, but travelling to the European theatres of war offers a unique insight in the experiences of the Nisei, both on and off the battlefields through encounters with local veterans and their relatives.

From Remembrance to education

Over time, the focus of WW2 commemorations is likely to keep shifting further from formal ceremonies towards educational opportunities. It is crucial that future generations understand the causes and consequences of war and the impact on human lives.

The immense resilience demonstrated by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is hugely beneficial to gaining a better understanding. Increased awareness on a personal level and a broader insight in how this conflict reshaped the political, social and economic landscape of numerous countries and segments of their population.

The sacrifices made during WW2 should continue to be honoured. While the absence over time of veterans may pose a challenge, it offers opportunity for innovation and adaptation to new audiences.

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