It was a sobering moment that reminded us of a sad reality, and it happened earlier this month at Portland American Legion Post’s Veterans Day ceremony.
During his remarks, pastor Darrell Borders asked if there were any World War II veterans in attendance. 
The crowd at Freedom Park glanced around for a few seconds. An uncomfortable silence seemed to fill the park as those in attendance realized no members of the “Greatest Generation” were with us. 
Borders remarked it was the first time the annual event was without such veterans, and described the occurrence as a “sad day.” 
That moment was a concrete reminder that we are losing World War II veterans daily. A small percentage of them are still around. Their deaths are an inevitable reality, but hard to accept. 
Members of our “Greatest Generation” aren’t only great because of their war service, but also because of the hardship they overcame and their dedication to others. 
Take my grandfather for example. He’s lived a life marked with sacrifice, but also great success. 
Born in 1923, he grew up during the Great Depression. At one point during those difficult times, he had only one pair of pants. 
“Oh man, it was tough," Grandpa once told me about growing up in the depression.
As a young boy, Grandpa loved to read. His favorite books pertained to the Civil War.  
School was a natural fit for him.
“I didn’t study. I didn’t have to,” he said. 
However, he was only enrolled in school for seven years. He had to help the family on the farm. 
Whereas today’s kids are busying playing travel sports or texting on their iPhones, many of those Grandpa’s age spent their youth helping the family with labor. 
The work wasn’t always enjoyable. Grandpa had the task of milking the cow. He hated it.  
“The funny thing about what that was is, when I went into the army, my brother Wally was supposed to milk that cow and he would not do it,” Grandpa recalled. “He refused to do it and they had to sell the cow because I was in the army.”
Grandpa proudly served his country but, like many of his era, he doesn’t talk much about it. He carries with him an inspiring humility. 
That humility was exhibited when these veterans returned home in the 1940s. They didn’t ask for special treatment. Many simply went back to school or work, like Grandpa did on the family farm. 
“I wanted to build that farm up. I really did,” he said. “And I did. I worked it. We had, oh man, we grew an awful lot of stuff. An awful lot.”
Eventually, he set aside the farm and became a union man. He brought the same effort to that job, always dedicated to providing for his family and future generations. 
The success of his children and grandchildren is without a doubt a testament to his hard work and sacrifice. 
I like to think Grandpa is the greatest of the greatest generation, but I’m biased. The truth is that Grandpa’s generation is filled with thousands of men and women who embody the same qualities. 
Yet, we’re losing an average of 492 of our World War II per day, according to the National World War II Museum webpage. 
As we lose them, we also lose a way of life. In their love, sacrifice and perseverance, these veterans have taught us so much about how to conduct ourselves.
Because of them, America and the world is a better place. 
Grandpa has never sat me down for a lecture or life lesson. Simply in the way he lives and loves, he’s taught so many lessons in my 23 years about how to be a man for others. 
He’s been doing that for the entirety of his 93 years. He’s lived 34,156 days and I’m certain he’s taught more than 34,156 lessons in that time.  
I can’t wait to see what he teaches on day 34,157 and beyond. Having him around is what I’m most thankful for this holiday season.