WASHINGTON, D.C. - They've been called "The Greatest Generation" -- World War Two veterans.
Each year though, their numbers shrink.
Saturday, a group of hometown heroes visited the National World War II Memorial in Washington.
"Ah, this is awesome," said veteran Willard Haas said upon visiting the memorial for the first time.
As grand in scope as the National World War II Memorial is, with its towering twin arches representing the wars in Europe and the Pacific, what you first notice is the wall of stars.
Each one represents 100 service members killed in combat -- more than 400,000 casualties in all.
"It brings tears to your eyes, because those things always come back," said Dick Krauss, who served on the USS Ticonderoga in the Pacific. "They never leave you."
A group of 23 Lehigh Valley vets and their families traveled to Washington this weekend to see the memorial in their honor.
The trip was made possible by donations to the Lehigh Valley Veterans' History Project, which collects vets' stories for the Library of Congress.
"This is the third bus trip that they've made possible," said project founder Mike Sewards. "There's no charge at all for the veterans and their guests, for lunch, the bus trip, and dinner."
Haas spent the waning days of the war in Germany. This is his first, and perhaps only, trip to the memorial.
"At my age, I probably never would have gotten to see it, because I'll be 86 in October," said Haas.
As you might imagine, most of the people making this trip were men, but the women who served during the war were also represented.
"I was stationed at Corpus Christi," said Navy vet Dorothy Zakrewski.
Although women were mainly relegated to clerical work in those days, their work was vital.
She said women often aren't credited for the role they played in the war effort.
"I think for awhile they didn't, but lately it's different,' she said. "There's more women in the service."
Zakrewski received a medallion from Adm. Dirk Debbink, the Pentagon's Chief of Naval Reserves, who met the Lehigh Valley group at the memorial site.
"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here today, right?," he said. "Or if we were here today, we'd probably be speaking a different language."
The group also had lunch with Anna Mae Hays, the nation's first-ever female general. Now 93, Hays is an Allentown native.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley Scott Olson/Getty Images