Letters from a World War II Vet: Greatest Generation still serving

Published: Aug. 15, 2018 at 3:05 PM EDT
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They grew up in the United States during the Great Depression and then went on to serve in World War II literally saving the world.

We call them the greatest generation for a reason, because they were, and still are.

Yet everyday, memories of World War II disappear as these heroes, who survived great conflict, are dying.

Justin Hall plays the guitar and sings a song he has written for his grandfather, Retired Lt. Dale Smith. The words and melody poignant, "What are we gonna do when the good old boys are gone, the ones from World War II, Korea and Vietnam."

His grandfather lives in a quaint senior home in Bourbon with, who he calls, the home manager. Her name is Rebecca Wampler and she was up early one morning writing a letter to her grandson, Brandt Millet, in training for the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Dale wandered out of his room.

She explains, "On the 22nd of July I was up at 3 o’clock in the morning. I told him I was writing to my grandson and he said, 'could I write to him too' and so I said sure. He told me what to write and I wrote it down."

A writing campaign that started with one letter.

Dale is now 97 years old with mild dementia. But he remembers leading 29 bombing missions over Germany, marking each mission around a picture he kept of his beloved wife, back here in the States.

Dictating to Rebecca what started with that first letter to her grandson. Rebecca reads, "I'm Dale Smith, I'm 97 years young . I was a Lieutenant in World War II. My mind isn't as sharp as it was but I've still got time in this world. I choose to write trainees because of the challenge and endurance to make you the greatest soldiers you could ever ask for."

He spends many days with Rebecca, his daughter, Judy and grandson, Justin, reliving his own memories, however distant, a box full of memories. Rebecca reads more of Dale's words, "Perseverance is important and I am proud of the field that you have chosen."

A path Dale chose and still proudly remembers as he models his cap and jokes with his daughter as he tries on his uniform, saying, "Oh, this thing's shrunk."

Word spread about Dale's letter to Rebecca's grandson via social media and since that first letter on July 22nd, Dale, with Rebecca's help, has written 228 letters of encouragement. Rebecca reads, "Maybe I can give you a piece of advice that saw me through. Keep your head down, listen to your commanding officer and you will do great."

And he heard back from some of the boys, as he calls them, reading, "Dear Lt. Smith. We appreciate your service in World War II and now. God bless."

Dale himself is surprised by what he's accomplished saying, "That took a long time." Rebecca responds "two weeks." And Grandson Justin adds, "I'm sure those boys appreciate it."

Rebecca says not only the boys, but Dale too. "When we sit down and talk about it he gets excited again and he remembers what it was all about."

What it was all about keeps Dale and Rebecca writing. Sharing his knowledge, passion and love of country. Rebecca reads more from his letters, "Perseverance goes a long way and I am proud of you and the field you have chosen."

Carrying and passing on the torch of the greatest generation adding, " It's an honor that God has placed upon me to be able to let you know that I will be praying for you. It is my pleasure to write to you and thank you for being in that one percent who stands with me in serving our great country. Lt. Dale Smith."