'Greatest Generation' honored with commemorative coins
Bud Delancey entered the U.S. Air Force as an 18 year old in 1942. He served in the Eighth Air Force, an attachment to Patton's Third Army, and the 702nd Heavy Bombardment that helped bomb Germany.
"We helped chase (Erwin) Rommel out of Africa and into Italy," Delancey said, describing his part in the North African Campaign, which drove the German Afrika Korps out of the country.
Delancey was one of 16 living World War II veterans from Davison and Sanborn counties honored Friday with commemorative coins and certificates acknowledging their service during a brief ceremony at the Moose Lodge in Mitchell. The State Department of Veterans Affairs created the commemorative coin for each county to present to its surviving WWII vets.
Delancey and his fellow veteran, William Thompson, who served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Enterprise during WWII, agreed that the event was "pretty doggone good."
"We got to find out who other veterans are in the area, and we got a nice coin," Delancey said with a grin.
"And, they were treated with respect," said Marvin Zimmerman, who accompanied Delancey to the event.
"That's right," Delancey said solemnly. "They did."
Erin Brown, program manager for the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, briefly spoke to a crowd of about 40. She said the words sacrifice and work ethic aptly describe the Greatest Generation who gave so much to protect their country and to rebuild it when they returned from war. They did not boast about their time in the service, but rather worked hard to overcome challenges, stayed loyal to their wives, never gave up when times were difficult, took responsibility for their actions, and relied on common sense and level-headedness.
"Thank you to the Greatest Generation who are here with us today. Thank you for your sacrifice and dedication, and heroic actions," she said. "Thank you for letting me be a part of this day in your honor."
Mike Maske, state field officer for the S.D. Department of Veterans Affairs, saluted each veteran to whom he presented a coin. In turn, the veterans, whose ages average in the early 90s, stood to receive their coins while the audience applauded, smiled and took pictures.
In honor of those veterans who could not attend the event, the America's White Table stood in the rear of the banquet hall. In total, Davison County has 28 living WWII veterans, said Debra Emme of the Davison County Veterans Service Office. Emme said she and other officials will personally present the remaining coins to veterans who could not attend the event.
For those who attended, like Ray Buckley, the event was well-received and an honor.
"I think it's good," Buckley said of the event and receiving the coin.
Buckley was one of the boys who went to war with verbal parental permission — he was 17 when he enlisted. He remembers his parents were both proud and scared when he joined the U.S. Air Force. Buckley was a staff sergeant and his home base was in Okinawa, Japan, but he also spent time at several islands in the South Pacific, including Guam and the Philippines.
When asked what some of his greatest achievements are from his time overseas, he said, "I stayed alive."
LIST OF VETERANS HONORED at the ceremony
Ellsworth (E.J.) "Bud" Delancey