Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day — the battle of Normandy, France. It was an allied victory and turning point in the battle against Hitler.

The fight waged by Japan when it bombed Pearl Harbor would be won decisively in 1945 by U.S. bombers and two atomic bombs. Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Sadly, with each passing year, there are fewer World War II veterans alive to tell the tales of battles won and comrades lost. According to 2018 statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 348 World War II veterans die each day.

Statistics indicate there are fewer than 500,000 World War II-era veterans still alive, 5,868 of which are in Alabama. Compare that number to the 16.1 million who served.

The number of Korean War veterans is also starting to decline, as are Vietnam War veterans. It’s easy to point to age as a culprit, but sometimes it’s also the level of care.

The Veterans Administration has, for years, been accused of providing substandard care to veterans. Some veterans have lodged legitimate complaints about having to wait days, weeks and even months for appointments. Closer to home, the Limestone County Department of Veterans Affairs Office was closed for two months, forcing those who needed services to seek it in other counties.

The News Courier’s editorial board believes every effort should be made to provide exemplary care for those who lay their lives on the line in defense of this country. No veteran should ever have to wait for any level of care, whether physical or mental.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps this week to allow its 9 million members to seek care outside the VA hospital network, which could lead to improved care. By allowing veterans to access care through walk-in clinics, VA officials hope veterans’ wait time for medical care will be reduced from 30 days to 20 days. The goal is to reduce that time to 14 days by 2020.

It is truly unconscionable veterans would have to wait 14 days for a medical appointment. They gave us their all, so we should do the same for them.

Outside of medical care, Americans should honor the sacrifices and courage of veterans and active military as often as possible. If you see a service member in uniform, don’t be afraid to thank him or her. If you’re feeling particularly generous, buy him or her a meal or a cup of coffee.

Many government contractors in Huntsville make hiring veterans a priority, and we hope those efforts continue. It can be difficult for veterans to transition back into domestic life after defending the country, so any organization that makes that process easier deserves credit and appreciation.

Most importantly, if you know a veteran, simply be kind to them and talk to them. Don’t push too hard for salacious stories of battle, but be willing to listen if he or she decides to open up.

If you know a World War II veteran, make an effort to record their memories for future generations. Once their voices fall silent, the opportunity is lost forever.