Hundreds of World War II veterans, many at or near centenarian age, crowded into the Silver Spring Civic Center in Veterans Plaza Wednesday to remember their stories of war, friendship, victory and loss.
Nearly 70 years after Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan, prompting the United States to enter the conflict in Europe, Montgomery County residents who served in the war were honored.
Also attending were the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett, hosts of the event; former “Nightline” host Ted Koppel, who served as the master of ceremonies; Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown; and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8).
Koppel, a native of England, thanked the veterans with a personal story from his childhood, when American soldiers would frequently drive through his neighborhood.
“I remember the Americans, some of you, perhaps,” he said. “We children would run by the side of your jeeps and trucks yelling out, ‘Any gum, chum?’ and you would toss up packets of Chicklets.
“I’m 67 years late in telling you this, but thank you,” Koppel continued, his voice filling with emotion at times, “Thank you for what you did on Okinawa, on the beaches of Normandy… and for making the world safe. And, oh yes, thanks for the gum, chum.”
Albert Frumkin, a resident of Leisure World in Silver Spring, shared his story of being captured during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and living as a prisoner of war.
"We were forced to march for 13 days and put in box cars for six days,” he remembered. “We had no food or drink for the 19 days, but fortunately God and his wisdom made it snow and we grabbed handfuls to sustain us."
Only about 7,500 of the 10,000 men in Frumkin’s group survived the trip. His group was liberated by the Russian army on April 28, 1944, Frumkin said.
After leaving military life, Frumkin developed a cancer in his breast decades after he was injected with something unknown in that location while a prisoner of war. He said the breast was eventually removed by surgeons at the Veterans Affairs hospital.
“I feel very luck to be alive today and be with my family,” he said, noting that he recently turned 89 years old. “A lesson learned from my experience is to not wait for someone to tell me I can’t do something, but to take action on my own.”