Bob Thomas was just 18 when he was sent to join up with Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe, where he fought at the Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes Forest. Later, as a member of the Monuments Men, he helped rescue cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis.
On Saturday, Thomas was speaking for Army veterans of World War II at the Memorial Day remembrance ceremony aboard the carrier museum Midway.
He said that while he appreciated the term “The Greatest Generation,” he avoids any sense of heroism for himself.
While the ceremony at the Midway was underway — with its patriotic music, high school ROTC color guard and restored World War II aircraft fly-by — another was taking place outside the Veterans Memorial Center Museum in Balboa Park.
Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Vietnam veterans read the names of local troops killed in that conflict, each name accompanied by the tolling of a bell. The roll call goes from sunrise to sunset.
On Sunday, a ceremony is set for the Miramar National Cemetery; on Monday there will be another at the Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Also on Monday, a ceremony at the Mt. Soledad cross will honor Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, killed in Fallouja and a recipient of the Navy Cross. Among the speakers will be Marines who say Peralta saved their lives by smothering an enemy grenade.
Another ceremony at the La Vista Memorial Park in National City will include among its speakers Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Zambon, who lost both legs during a battle in Afghanistan. Rather than take a medical retirement, he remained on active duty so he could train young Marines about the dangers, seen and unseen, of combat.