By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
When Tarboro High School JROTC cadets begin raising the American Flag during the monthly ceremonies on the Town Common that honors deceased Edgecombe County veterans, Buck Price snaps to attention and presents a crisp hand salute. Wearing either his white or blue Navy uniform, he stands motionless until the flag reaches it pinnacle.
What's so unique about Price?
He's an 87-year old World War II veteran. The 5-foot-6, 145-pound Tarboro resident is the same size he was when he joined the Navy in 1943. Today, he boasts about being able to wear the same uniform.
But it's Price's patriotism and love for his community and his country that drives him to participate in the monthly ceremonies.
Like Price, many of America's World War II veterans have that same love for their country. Their undying willingness to fight for America's freedom have led them to earn the name "The Greatest Generation" that ever lived.
For World War II, 464 veterans received the Medal of Honor, 266 of them posthumously. As of May 21, 2013, there were 10 living World War II Medal of Honor recipients.
Sixty-eight years has passed since the end of World War II. Many of the surviving veterans have passed on. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimate 670 American World War II veterans die every day. Edgecombe County has had at least five die since January.
However, those still alive continue to display their unwavering love for their country. For them, Independence Day has a sacred meaning.
"The Fourth of July is a very important day for all Americans because that is when we declared our independence from Britain," said 89-year old Norfleet Sugg. "Most of us came from Europe anyway. One of the things we wanted to do is freedom of worship. We wanted to be able to worship God the way we wanted to, not the way some government wanted us to. Edgecombe County had a lot of people in the Revolutionary War. It a critical day for us. A tingle of patriotism comes out and that makes us all feel good. This is a great country and a great place to live and raise a family."
Price said, "Seeing the American flags flying during the holiday thrills me. I just can't explain it. I get a electrical feeling down my spine."
Milton Fields, 87, proudly wears a hat that display the ship's name he served on while he was in the war. Independence Day also has a special meaning for him.
"I read a book recently about the fall of giants," Fields said. "It depicted how Europe took over and had a large revolution. I realize more after reading that book how much liberty meant to us and how much we can remember that when we celebrate the Fourth."
(EDITOR'S NOTE — According to published reports, 16,112,566 individuals were members of the United States armed forces during World War II. There were 291,557 battle deaths, 113,842 other deaths in-service (non-theater), and 670,846 non-mortal woundings. In November 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that approximately 1,462,809 American veterans from this war were still living.
There is no known American World War I veteran alive. The last veteran Wood Buckles, died Feb. 27, 2011 at the age of 110 in Charles Town, W.V.