Lanes were closed and traffic was stopped for a while in the South Bay Thursday morning. That’s because Silicon Valley was honoring members of the Greatest Generation, former prisoners of war from World War II.
They were greeted at the San Jose Hyatt by the flag they helped defend, a tribute befitting of their heroics.
The men were all prisoners during WWII. Randal Edwards and Oscar Leonard were imprisoned by the Japanese for wearing the uniform of the United States.
“Water, that was all we had,” Edwards said. “I don’t remember any food. I won't say we didn’t have any, but I don’t remember any."
Edwards said, in his WWII prison camp, he was even forced to help the enemy kill his own men. “I had to make bullets for the Japanese guns. It would turn out bullets on the other end."
The WWII veterans are in town for the annual convention of the Descendants Group, an organization for POWs and their families.
And, on this day, the American heroes were treated like royalty. They hopped aboard special buses, and were escorted throughout the South Bay by the Patriot Guard Riders and by San Jose's Finest.
"It’s such an honor to do this,” San Jose Police Officer Steve Wilson said. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to do this."
The former POWs looked on as cars on the highway cleared lanes for them, and during the trip, each man was given another moving tribute: On every overpass from San Jose to Los Gatos, firefighters from several agencies stood at attention, saluting those who survived the worst of times.
The war finally ended, but what may never end is the gratitude for the men who endured the unthinkable.
When they finally arrived in Los Gatos, these men who once spent days without food were treated to a meal at C. B. Hannegan's, a thank you for members of the Greatest Generation.
“It's nice,” Leonard said. “We've been treated well now, but a long time ago we weren’t treated too well."