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James and Virginia, both in their early 20s, were in the U.S. Army, two young Americans bonded by a common cause and fighting against a common enemy.
They were two of the 16 million who served in World War II. They did not know each other then. James was in heavy combat, and Virginia was not far behind the lines as an Army nurse, caring for wounded soldiers.
Their paths would cross one day, but not until 70 years later. They are now both living at Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato. James is 95. Virginia is 91.
They are proud of their service. But, like so many members of the Greatest Generation, they are also modest.
James changes the subject when he’s asked about his war experience.
And Virginia simply says, “This was a very important part of my life. I can’t say enough about how great all the GIs were.”
Virginia met an infantry officer in Europe who she would later marry back in the States. She continued in nursing, and he became a college president.
James and his wife have lived at Ecumen Pathstone Living for three years now.
Both Virginia and James appreciated that they were guests on Honor Flights in 2011. Virginia flew out from Kansas City and James from Rochester, Minn., on the whirlwind one-day flight to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II War Memorial.
While on the flight, they received “mail call” which included letters from children (classrooms wrote letters), also some family, as well as a card from staff at Pathstone Living. When they landed, they were escorted to the WWII memorial by police cars. Then they were greeted by supporters who held posters and cheered when they returned.
On Veterans Day, Ecumen communities will be honoring veterans like Virginia and James and all our veterans who have served. We cannot honor them enough.