PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Before Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971, it was called Decoration Day which dates back to the post-Civil War era.
The purpose of this day is to honor and mourn the sacrifice of America’s military men and women, a sacrifice observed Monday at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.
There was no war since these observances began that claimed more American lives than World War II. Monday night, with the help of the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, Eyewitness News heard from a World War II survivor with what he wants everyone to appreciate about this holiday.
“Sometimes I don’t believe what I saw or heard,” John Wrazien said.
What a teenaged John Wrazien of Dupont experienced while serving in World War II taught him and his courageous fighting peers some harsh lessons.
“I always said we actually didn’t have enough brains to know what we were doing. You know what I mean? This guy is going to get hurt, that guy is going to get hurt. This guy is going to get killed,” Wrazien said.
More than 400,000 U.S. troops were killed during World War II including some 2,500 during the D-Day invasion which Wrazien was part of.
“There’s no way that I could explain the horror that was in it. No way,” Wrazien said.
Wrazien was one of the lucky ones and it changed his perspective.
“Memorial Day to me at one time I didn’t really, really feel what it was,” Wrazien said.
Now 97 years old, Wrazien looks back on all of those brothers in arms he lost and encourages us all to pause and remember the fallen for what they represented.
“No mission impossible, no sacrifice too great, duty first,” Wrazien said.
The sentiments of this U.S. Army veteran echo what we’ve heard many times before: that freedom is not free.
It’s why today it’s so important to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice so many of America’s brave men and women made so that we may enjoy the freedoms we do today and every day.