ERIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — The number of living World War II veterans is dwindling, which is why Houston County officials made it a point to honor the two in the area who are still alive Monday.

Part of what’s known as the greatest generation, Hugh Breeden, 102, is humble, despite his achievements and the sacrifices he made during World War II.

“Can you tell them about the time you heard about the war?” Breeden’s granddaughter, Becky Gooden, asked.

Breeden was working on his family’s farm when his mother heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. The Houston County resident, then in his early 20s, was drafted to the Navy, got on a bus to Chattanooga, and ultimately boarded the Destroyer USS Young to be shipped off to Japan.

“He was an only child, so it was hard for him. He wanted to go, and he wanted to serve his country, but it was hard for him to be away and not work on the farm to help his father make their living,” Gooden said. “[The veterans] sacrificed so much for us. All our veterans need to be praised. Teach your family and your children about what this country is about.”

After Breeden returned to the U.S. from the war, he got married and started a family.

However, out of the more than 1,200 men from Houston County who served in World War II, 35 never made it home.

“This county’s rate of loss of veterans in World War II was much higher than the national average,” Howard Spurgeon, Houston County commissioner and Navy veteran, said.

Houston County’s historical society recently made a presentation on the areas World War II veterans to the local schools to teach children about the topics often not included in the history books.

“Many people do not understand that during World War II, we were not fighting necessarily just for the United States, but we were fighting for mankind,” Spurgeon said. “With that, we were trying to preserve the ability to have freedom of thought, freedom of religion. So impressing that upon the children today is very important.”

On Monday, Breeden and World War II Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Russ Harris, 102, were presented with plaques from Houston County officials, thanking them for their service and sacrifice.

Houston County also honored the late Frank Cherry of Stewart, who, according to his family, lied about his age so he could enlist in the Navy and serve during World War II. Cherry died on Aug. 27 at 93 years old.

Cherry’s family told News 2 he was “pioneer in the nuclear submarine industry,” and was on board the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine in history and the first to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole on Aug. 3, 1958.

Houston County Mayor Joey Brake told News 2 it’s important for the county to honor the WWII veterans before they’re gone.

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“We had seven World War II vets in 2020, and we’re down to two,” Brake said. “They’re both 102 years old, and 10 years from now, there won’t be any World War II veterans in this country.”