They are a resource that is quietly fading away, taking an important first-person piece of history with them.
This week, America marked the 63rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and as the date passed, Georgia mourned Louis Watson Truman. The 96-year-old Atlantan was the second-oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
And he's not alone. Day after day, members of the greatest generation are passing from this earth, dwindling the first-hand accounts of the last world war.
History books can tell us only so much. There's much more in the minds and thoughts of our veterans, stories that should be told and -- more importantly -- listened to.
Take, for example, McDuffie County's own Pearl Harbor survivor -- Roger Reid. Profiled by The McDuffie Mirror and Morris News Service a couple of times in recent years, his story is familiar: He was a 19-year-old corporal in the Army's 34th Infantry Regiment, and was part of a 12-member advance team that had stopped off at Oahu en route to the Philippine Islands. He was standing in line for breakfast outside the Schofield Barracks mess hall when the attack started.
After it ended, at about 1 p.m., Mr. Reid was sent to Hickam Field to help out. It was a scene of carnage, Mr. Reid recalls, with planes and barracks on fire and dead bodies lying everywhere. He helped pick up body parts and put them in garbage cans.
Sixty years later, he returned to the same concrete walkway where he was standing when the attack started.
"It gives you a feeling that you can't describe," he told Morris News Service. "It was in between solemn and - I don't know what it was. You'd have to experience it to know what it was like."
Hopefully, it's something -- beyond the shadow of Sept. 11 -- that we'll never have to experience. But we know our freedom -- available to us because of men like Mr. Reid -- will bring the challenges of the world.
And as long as we are armed with the lessons old soldiers provide, our freedom will be preserved for generations to come. They are truly what makes America great and deserve our thanks -- and our undivided attention -- at every opportunity.