U-Haul Helps Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive with Memorial Day Float

U-Haul has been a proud supporter of the Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive organization since its beginnings in 2009. This year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet.

Grateful to be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, U-Haul embraced the Spirit of ’45 last month when it provided the funding for the organization’s float in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.

U-Haul, founded by World War II Navy veteran L.S. “Sam” Shoen in 1945, also is celebrating 70 years of service.

“The Spirit of ’45 is a national coalition of organizations that come together to help organize a national day, a national celebration of the memory of the World War II generation,” stated Warren Hegg, national supervisor of Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive. “The focus this year is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II that will be observed August 14-16.”

The parade served as a catalyst for bringing several Spirit of ’45 partners together. U-Haul is thrilled to be teaming up with these partners on multiple initiatives this year, and was honored to gift the Spirit of ’45 its float entry.

“We proudly partner with The Spirit of ’45 to commemorate the ‘greatest generation’ and the sacrifices they made for future generations,” stated Sebastien Reyes, director of external communications for U-Haul International. “Many of the Company’s earliest employees were WWII veterans. They had the tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit to help create this industry and serve the need to move from state to state.”

In keeping what has now become a tradition, U-Haul donated a truck for the fourth year in a row to get the iconic Kiss Statue to Washington D.C., where it served as a showpiece for the WWII section of the parade atop the Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive float.

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Float
Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive float (Credit: Zofia Sells)

Along with the Kiss Statue, the Spirit of ’45 anniversary commemoration consisted of American Legion Riders led by Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, the chancellor of the University of Richmond. Heilman departed from Quantico, Va., and rode his motorcycle 6,000 miles to promote awareness about the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and this year’s events in August.

The longtime chancellor is a Marine Corps veteran who fought in the Battle of Okinawa. The American Legion Riders who accompanied Heilman, stopping at American Legion posts along the route, soon will be forming a special unit of riders to be called Heilman’s Heroes. The group plans to retrace the route Heilman rode this year every May leading up to Memorial Day.

“This is a very special Memorial Day for me,” Heilman said. “More than 14,000 young Americans lost their lives during the 83 days of the Battle of Okinawa 70 years ago. It is important that we never forget them as we honor the Gold Star families of all eras who have paid such a price for the freedoms we too often take for granted.”

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive
Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive at Memorial Day Parade (Credit: Zofia Sells)

Each Memorial Day, hundreds of youth volunteers come to the nation’s capital to march in the parade. They carry poster-sized photos of 400 of the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives to the cause of freedom in WWII.

“On Memorial Day, we honor them,” Hegg explained. “These kids come out and stand for people who for 70 years were forgotten … and we brought them forth to be remembered. U-Haul has helped sponsor this from the beginning and we are so thankful.”

Read more stories about U-Haul Company’s charitable efforts at our In the Community page on myuhaulstory.com.

Did you attend the Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. or another city? Please tell us about your experience in the comment box below.

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