I was going to post some pics of them back on 6/6/44. DDay. But I've decided you've seen those. So I'll show some of them as they are now. Some of these are better than others, but I'm posting them all so you can get a feel for the event @ the World War II Museum in New Orleans, last Saturday, June 6. The 65th anniversary of DDay. I went with my friend, Lance, who is a modern-day Army veteran himself.
This one--and the one below are part of the "Roll Call of the Greatest Generation" Saturday afternoon. The guys stood when their branch of the service was called out.
Marines. (I know this because we spoke w/ several of the guys in the red VFW caps standing. Plus, the lady w/ the white jacket w/ the Marine Corps emblem on it.)
Was trying to capture the guy on the second row from the back. Showed up in his full uniform. (see the beret; he's looking toward his right as he's sitting)
Mrs. Ambrose again (center of picture). Note the Higgins boat in the background. Eisenhower called these "the boats that won the war." Mr. Higgins' company built over 20,000 of them in just a couple of years. They were used in both the Alantic and Pacific theaters.
But I digress...he was not a DDay veteran.
Here's Sgt. Bob Slaughter's copy. Sgt. Slaughter went ashore on Omaha Beach as part of the 116th Infantry. While on their landing craft, he passed his copy around for the guys to sign. By nightfall, half of these guys were no longer available for service...
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."
Consider: "all that bravery and devotion to duty could do..." To me, there's an excellent summary of the guys I met Saturday, even though that particular notice was never used. I'll add these words from the end of the book Band of Brothers: "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" "No, son, I wasn't...but I served in a company of heroes..."
And these from Stephen Ambrose's DDay:
"It's a wonderful thing to remember what those fellows years ago were fighting for and sacrificing for, what they did to preserve our way of life. Not to conquer any territory, not for any ambitions of our own. But to make sure that Hitler could not destroy freedom in the world. I think it's just over whelming. To think of the lives that were given for that principle, paying a terrible price on this beach alone, on that day, 2,000 casualties. But they did it so that the world could be free. It just shows what free men will do rather than be slaves."
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at Omaha Beach 20 years after the invasion.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
"I have gone through lots of tragedies since D-Day, but to me, D-Day will live with me till the day I die, and I'll take it to heaven with me. It was the longest, most miserable, horrible day that I or anyone else ever went through. I would not take a million dollars for my experiences, but I surely wouldn't want to go through that again for a million dollars."
Felix Branham, Private, K Company, 116th Infantry, Omaha Beach
(the regiment that took the heaviest casualties of all the Allied regiments on D-Day)
"The first night in France I spent in a ditch beside a hedgerow wrapped in a damp shelter-half and thoroughly exhausted. But I felt elated. It had been the greatest experience of my life. I was ten feet tall. No matter what happened, I had made it off the beach and reached the high ground. I was king of the hill at least in my mind, for a moment. My contribution to the heroic tradition of the United States Army might have been the smallest achievement in the history of courate, but at least for a time, I had walked in the company of very brave men."
John Ellery, 16th Regiment, 1st Division, Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach.
If you're wondering, I pretty much stood silent Saturday. I am not worthy to even speak in the presence of so many heroes and "very brave men." If I live a long time, I doubt I will ever again walk among so many selfless heroes who are "ten feet tall" still today. I'll echo Mr. Ellery's words: at least for a time last Saturday, I walked in the company of very brave men...
And they are leaving us way too fast. Soon, they will all be but a memory. And we as a nation will be all the poorer.