Memorial Day 2013: WWII veterans honored
It was a humbling and emotional day for James Van Splunder, a member of the Merchant Marines during World War II.
On Monday, Memorial Day, the Buffalo native is among other WWII veterans placing wreaths at the World War II Memorial in honor of those 20th century heroes who didn't make it home and those who have passed since.
“I'm proud and honored to do this," he says.
Each wreath represents a different branch of the military, each wreath telling thousands of wartime stories.
As a merchant Marine, Van Splunder was in one in of the highest causality rates of any military branch, and now he's part of a vanishing group. The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that around 600 American World War II veterans die each day.
The 91-year-old decorated ex-Marine was escorted by his two sons and his wife. He went to fight overseas at age 19, under attack in unfamiliar waters. At age 91, hundreds of people, mostly strangers came to simply say thank you.
"It's a great occasion,” Van Splunder says.