749th World War II Vets Meet One Last Time

749th World War II Vets Meet One Last Time

Friday, July 24, 2009 1:57 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio — They met as boys, endured as men and are now saying their goodbyes as a generation.
The 749th Railway Operating Battalion is preparing to meet one last time this weekend, 10TV's Anietra Hamper reported.
"We're just like a band of brothers," said George Scott, a World War II veteran.
The battalion was 900 men strong during World War II. After the war, they continued their camaraderie with annual reunions, but time has taken its toll.
The veterans are dying at a rate of about 1,000 a day.
"We're going to miss each other," said Dick Likens, a member of the battalion. "Let's face it. We're not going to be around much longer."
"When you're (overseas) and you can hear (enemies) shooting and stuff like that, you get to be real close with a friend," said Forrest Jenkins, a member of the battalion.
Bob Kern, a World War II veteran said that in 2006 and 2007, only 15 veterans have shown up to their reunion.
"Last year we had 10," Kern said. "I told them if we have another reunion, there will only be five and I don't want to be the last (survivor)."
There are only eight members of the battalion scheduled to attend this year's reunion. With an average age of 90, most of the veterans have died or are too sick to travel, so they decided to make this year their final farewell, Hamper reported.
"It's a sad thing to think that it's all over with, almost," Scott said. "I know it is for me. My age is against me. I'm getting too old to go."
No photos, uniforms or even medals will be on display at the reunion. The men carry their mementos in their memories. The only signature of the 749th is an old banner that will be put away one last time.
"We didn't want to make this a wake," said Don Gothard, a member of the battalion. "We wanted people to have a good time and enjoy themselves and not have this thought in their mind."
With their families by their sides, the 749th Veterans Railway Club, with dues still at $6 a year, will spend the rest of their money this weekend and head home with great memories.
All the men said that they have mixed emotions about the reunion. Several of them had tears in their eyes as they talked about the bittersweet moment.
The families of the veterans said that they planned to discuss the possibility of their children and grandchildren carrying on the tradition since many of them have become family after all the years.

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