Robert Pratt came to Washington from Texas on Saturday to honor people he hadn’t thought of in years.
He stood behind a 120-foot-long banner imprinted with photos of 1,945 of his fellow World War II veterans, commemorating this week’s 67th anniversary of the war’s end.
As a Navy commander, he fought mostly in the South Pacific and participated in the invasions of Okinawa and Saipan. Now 90 and living in Boerne, Tex., Pratt described being able to see the banner as “soul-stirring.”
“It brings back memories of people you haven’t thought about,” he said. “You think about them in a deeper way. You think about the fun and good times you had with them. . . . You think about what they’ve missed.”
The banner display at the National World War II Memorial on the Mall kicked off the National Spirit of ’45 weekend, which marks the anniversary of the war’s end and the sacrifices Americans made in battle and on the home front.
The event will culminate Tuesday in New York’s Times Square, scene of the famous kiss between a sailor and a nurse on Aug. 14, 1945, in celebration of the Allies’ victory over Japan.
The Wall of Honor banner is meant as a way to remember those who fought in the war and to inspire people today to strive to be more like the Greatest Generation, said Warren Hegg, national coordinator for Spirit of ’45.
The organization plans to create a banner display each year to include photos of service members who have died in the past year, Hegg said.
Tracy Huff, president and chairman of the board of Alamo Honor Flight, brought nearly 40 veterans to Washington to see the banner. The group is part of the Honor Flight Network, which helps transport World War II veterans to war memorials around the country. In three years, the Alamo chapter has flown 200 veterans to see the memorial in Washington.
Huff had his own definition of the banner’s meaning.
“They were people that stood up as men, mothers, wives, children to do what we needed to do to support democracy,” he said. “They came home and didn’t ask for anything, understanding what they did they did for the world . . . that’s what makes them great.”
Jacqueline Drumwright took cellphone photos of the banner as it lay on the ground. She and her family were visiting from North Carolina. They were with friends who knew a Tuskegee Airman and had come to show their support at the event. She said that having her two daughters with her made her proud to be part of the event.
“At their age, they only get to read about [the war] in history books,” she said.
She added: “To be able to share this event around veterans . . . and help hold up the banner . . . it’s like touching a piece of history.”