Raymond Jacobs died on January 29, 2008 of natural causes in Redding, California. He is believed to be the last surviving member of the group photographed raising the United States flag over Iwo Jima during World War II on February 23, 1945. This photograph is believed to be one of the most reproduced photographs in history.
It is really difficult to watch this generation leave us. They gave so much of their most productive years to make this country strong, yet asked so little in return.
Many spent a good portion of their childhood in poverty during the Great Depression. They didn’t enjoy the affluent, care-free lifestyle that our kids enjoy today. They were working, many times to the exclusion of an education, to help put food on the table.
Then, as they were reaching adulthood, World War II broke out. From when the United States joined the war in 1941 until the war ended in 1946, 16 million served in the military. Many more served on the home front working in factories supporting the war effort, running recycling drives, bond drives, etc.
When they returned home, they were expected to join the workforce, start families, and build this country into an industrial giant. Once again, they did so with no complaints. However, they were effectively robbed of their childhood and their “oat-sowing” early adult years.
Of the 16 million that served in World War II, only about 3 million are still with us. To this day, they are a quiet, humble people. To them, they were just doing what anyone would do. However, I happen to agree that these are amazing giants that deserve the title The Greatest Generation.
To Raymond Jacobs and everyone else in his generation (military and civilian): We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service to this country, and for your tireless work to make this the greatest nation this planet has ever known. We owe you a debt that we cannot ever hope to repay.