|General Eisenhower addresses a group of paratroops preparing for the DDay invasion.|
There aren't many of them left. And we are worse off because of that.
Important note: there are still heroes walking among us doing amazing feats of arms in the face of a hostile enemy. I salute them all; men before whom I stand silent, except to say "Thanks."
But World War II in gen'l--and the DDay invasion of Normandy in particular--seems to have produced heroes in very large volume. Some made it home; some didn't. In just the first four hours of daylight in June 6, 1944, there were 9,000 U.S. casualties (combo of wounded & killed.) During the next few weeks of the campaign, there were tens of thousands more.
Some, like my friend, parachuted, jumping into what looked like a maelstrom of gunfire, often landing in flooded fields. Some were towed across the English Channel in gliders; these crash-landed on purpose. Some went over the sides & out the front of landing craft like the picture below.
|U.S. Troops wade ashore toward Omaha Beach.|
Four years ago, on the 65th anniversary of DDay, a buddy & I drove down to the DDay museum in New Orleans. The museum staff had invited every known survivor of the 1944 invasion to come. A couple hundred showed up.
I doubt I'll ever walk among so many towering heroes again this side of Heaven. It was awesome in the truest sense of the word.
Last year, my buddy brought me some hallowed ground.
One day, I hope to visit Normandy. I hope to stand on the beaches. I hope to stand atop Pointe du Hoc. I hope to visit the U.S. cemetery just inland from the beach. There is absolutely no chance of me remaining composed when that day comes.
One final story. A guy recently spoke of his uncle who was tasked with cleaning up the beaches of Normandy. He never spoke of that day to anybody for the rest of his days.
I hope we always remember, even as those who were there leave us on a daily basis. As President Reagan said in his fantastic speech at Pointe du Hoc on June 6, 1984, "Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your 'lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.'"
War is hellacious, brutal, uncomprising, deadly,...and sometimes absolutely necessary. As on June 6, 1944. If you know any veterans of World War II, make a point of thanking them.
Now I need to go look at my two small bags of dirt--hallowed ground--and remember & celebrate & pray & give thanks for some heroes I never met. (And for one that I see quite regularly.)