INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - According to the Veterans Administration, we're losing our World War II veterans at a rate of 430 per day. 16 million Americans served now the number of surviving WWII veterans is down to 697,806, with a little more than 14,000 here in Indiana.
That's why Roncalli High School teacher Kevin Banich says a personal view of history is so important.
For the past three years, his father, a retired Army Reserve Colonel and WWII veteran grandfather have been lecturing in Kevin's classes.
“l was born on July 4. I’m a history teacher and I’m the son and grandson of Army veterans,” Banich said.
So patriotism and serving are second nature for Banich and his family.
"It’s not very often that you get two veterans standing in the same room who happen to be father and son and who happen to be my dad and grandfather,” said Banich.
Kevin’s father, Joe Banich Jr., is a retired Army Colonel who spent 34 years in the reserve, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kevin’s grandfather, Joe Banich Sr., served in the Army during WWII.
“They did a job, they served this country and it’s not something they go around hitting their chest about. It was their job it was their service it was what they were called to do.”
Many of those who fought in WWII were not much older than the students at Roncalli.
“Students, 15, 16, 17 years old kids kinda have this 'Ah ha' moment and all of a sudden go up and thank my grandpa and my dad for their service. That’s something you don’t get to see every day in the classroom,” said Banich.
“I want them to walk away with an appreciation of what his generation did,” said Joe Banich Jr.
Joe's father served in General Patton’s 3rd Armored Division, the spearhead that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Banich fought in the Battle of the Bulge, liberated Cologne, Germany, and Buchenweld Concentration Camp.
He earned five Bronze Stars for bravery and a Purple Heart for being injured in combat.
“When I see those kids leave the classroom and I see them approach him and thank him for his service. It’s pretty amazing,” said Joe Banich Jr.
“It’s an incredible feeling. It’s humbling. It just makes it a very more realistic thing for me,” said Kevin Banich.
A family’s legacy of serving continues on.
Joe Banich Sr. will soon be honored with another award more than 70 years after his service.
Banich will be honored by Belgium for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.