Every year that I host the Veteran of the Year Award banquet on behalf of the Veterans Transition House in New Bedford, I come away with a deep appreciation for the men and women who served our nation.

For instance, this generation will remember how 9/11 was a turning point in  the way America used to be. After Pearl Harbor was bombed, everyday life changed dramatically, too. Food, gas and clothing were rationed and Americans were asked to sacrifice more so the troops would have enough to win the war.

New Bedford, a manufacturing city, was an important component of World War II. The war touched everybody's life here, whether they went off to fight or stayed home and contributed to the war effort by making needed arms or collecting metal to melt down and shape into Jeeps and tanks.

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As we went through the program honoring 2021 Veteran of the Year Dean Lawrence, from the podium I glanced over and saw Don Canto, a 97-year old World War II veteran. The thought of what life must have been like during the World War went through my mind. Those soldiers survived against incredible odds.

WW II soldiers went to war in their fathers' place, who were a little too old to fight on the battlefield. They did what they had to do to survive and the ones who returned came back as quiet heroes. Many never spoke of their heroism, and many families never knew of their loved ones' heroic acts until reporters knocked on their door.

In that momentary glance over to Mr. Canto, I imagined his heroism on the battlefield, while his faithful wife endured those trying times with their children at home with a quiet devotion.

Eventually, it was all over. Victory Day finally meant the end of WW II, and the beginning of a new, promising future. I left the awards banquet feeling proud and not forgetting the good guys won the war, and how it shaped the America we became.

LOOK: 100 years of American military history