ERIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — The number of living World War II veterans is dwindling, which is why Houston County officials made it a point to honor the two in the area who are still alive Monday.
Part of what's known as the greatest generation, Hugh Breeden, 102, is humble, despite his achievements and the sacrifices he made during World War II.
"Can you tell them about the time you heard about the war?" Breeden's granddaughter, Becky Gooden asked.
Breeden was working on his family's farm when his mother heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. The Houston County resident, then in his early 20's, was drafted to the Navy, got on a bus to Chattanooga, and ultimately boarded the Destroyer USS Young to be shipped off to Japan.
"He was an only child, so it was hard for him. He wanted to go, and he wanted to serve his country, but it was hard for him to be away and not work on the farm to help his father make their living," Gooden said. "[The veterans] sacrificed so much for us. All our veterans need to be praised. Teach your family and your children about what this country is about."
After Breeden returned to the U.S. from the war, he got married and started a family.
However, out of the more than 1,200 men from Houston County who served in World War II, 35 never made it home.
"This county's rate of loss of veterans in World War II was much higher than the national average," Howard Spurgeon, Houston County commissioner and Navy veteran said.
Houston County's historical society recently made a presentation on the areas World War II veterans to the local schools to teach children about the topics often not included in the history books.
"Many people do not understand that during World War II, we were not fighting necessarily just for the United States, but we were fighting for mankind," Spurgeon said. "With that, we were trying to preserve the ability to have freedom of thought, freedom of religion. So impressing that upon the children today is very important."
On Monday, Breeden and World War II Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Russ Harris, 102, were presented with plaques from Houston County officials, thanking them for their service and sacrifice.
Houston County Mayor, Joey Brake, told News 2 it's important for the county to honor the WWII veterans before they're gone.
"We had seven World War II vets in 2020, and we're down to two," Brake said. "They're both 102 years old, and 10 years from now, there won't be any World War II veterans in this country."
Up until a few weeks ago, Houston County had three living WWII veterans. Navy veteran, Frank Cherry, served in the military for 20 years. He died Sunday, Aug. 27, at 93 years old.
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