WE’LL MEET AGAIN: a WWII Tribute in song and verse to the Greatest Generation
Tom Brokow argues in his book The Greatest Generation that “the men and women of World War II were the greatest generation any society has ever produced. This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values–duty, honor, economy, courage, and service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself.”
You would get no argument from the crowd who gathered at the American GI Forum Mile Hi Chapter on June 19th to honor and pay tribute to ten (10) living Hispanic WWII veterans.
The Greatest Generation was on full display as the Mile Hi Players led by Director Ricardo La Fore took to the stage in song, dance and verse to sing the praises of these honorable men who ranged in age from 88 to 100.
The honorees are in alphabetical order: Richard Charlifue, Lloyd De Herrera, Gilbert Herrera; Buford Johnson; Anthony Lopez; John Maravilla; Manuel Martinez Sr.; Alfred Padilla; Jesus Rivera and Alfred Hurtado who had injured himself the night before and was unable to attend. Also honored that evening were two widows of past honorees: Elizabeth Aragon widow of Jose Aragon and Lorraine Espino widow of Juan Espino.
“Honoring our veterans before they pass into history is a large part of what we do at the Mile HI GI Forum. We wanted to thank these men while they were still alive so they could experience firsthand the love and admiration we have for them. It won’t be long before they are all gone,” said La Fore.
According to National WWII Museum; 16 million served in WWII; there are 855,070 left today and they are dying at the rate of 492 each day. It is estimated that by 2036 they will all be gone.
The crowd cheered wildly as the veterans rose to their feet and saluted when their bios were read.
The Players singers Lori Gulzow, Dianne Nino, Ricardo La Fore, Tamara Montoya and Toby Rampa sang many of the iconic songs of WWII, including, Well meet again; I’ll never smile again, I can’t get started and La Vie en Rose. Comedy was also part of the evening as Cipriano and Louise Griego channeled a funny version of George Burns and Gracie Allen, La Fore channeled a General Patton speech and Tim Sandos did a funny version of Irvign Berlin’s “Oh how I hate to get up in the morning and the singing trio of Dolores Moya, Loy Torrez sand Roberta Moreno nailed it with Dream a little Dream. ZING the Great Big Band under the direction of Glen Wolf who waived their usual fee wowed the audience as Ruth Sanchez and Joe Davalos jitterbugged to versions of In the Mood, American Patrol, and Chattanooga Choo Choo. This wonderful 23 piece orchestra provided a rousing version of Stars and Stripes forever to end the show.
Tamale Kitchen owner Nick Avila catered a delicious meal that was enjoyed by all. Mile Hi Player Ernie Torres did the sound and lighting for the show. The Center for War Studies at Regis University contracted with Omni Media Services for a DVD of the show. It is in editing now and will be available soon.
We can never repay these men for what they have done. It is a distinct honor and privilege to stage an event like and pause as a community to thank those who fought so hard for the freedoms we still enjoy today.
So on Friday June 19th we honored the best among us. The food and entertainment was top notch but the real stars were these ten members of the Greatest Generation. Gentlemen, the American GI Forum, your friends and family salute you and thank you for your service.
By Ricardo LaFore, Photos by Teddy Gomez, Latin Life Denver