More than 1,000 American World War II veterans die each day. One group committed to thanking those still living is Honor Flights, which brings them free of charge to Washington, D.C. to see the memorial built in their honor. Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole greeted my dad, brother, and me, along with hundreds of other vets and family from Kansas and Kentucky, on a recent fall day. (Click for details and a message from Senator Dole.)

What struck me about these veterans, all in their 80s and 90s now, is how ordinary they are; ordinary men called upon to do extraordinary things to protect our country and way of life in the 40s. They were young farmers, factory workers, and fresh-out-of-high-school mechanics like *** Lamb. Six decades of movies have defined for most of us what that war was like, but I suspect the day-to-day reality was a bit different. Homesickness, boredom, fatigue, uncertainty, discomfort, fear, horror … it’s a wonder those who came home found their way back to any kind of normalcy. But like *** Lamb, most did. They had jobs to do at home, too. Calling theirs “the greatest generation” is fitting tribute, but I think of them as the model for every generation.

To learn more about the Honor Flights program, visit http://www.honorflight.org/