Friday, June 7, 2013

69 years later

Yesterday was June 6.  The 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy in World War II.  I spent the day thinking about how if must have felt to be on one of the landing craft or parachuting into a beach full of enemies shooting everything they had at the invaders.
That was your view as you disembarked and headed for the beach.  Thousands of soldiers were brought to the battle, thousands are buried there, hundreds came home wounded for life.  

It seems like so little to say it this way, but what this meant was, if this invasion had failed (and General Eisenhower had a message all written in advance to be read if that happened) and the war had been subsequently lost, our freedoms and everything else the Revolutionary soldiers fought and won for us would have been lost, and we would have gone under the despotic rule of the Hitlers and the rest of that awful crowd.

I've shared this before but with D Day on my mind, it came to me again.  As a child, most of my peers had fathers who had been in the war.  That's why we were called the Baby Boomers, folks!  Our fathers came home from the Army, Navy, Marine, what have you, and got married and got busy having kids.  

But one of my father's friends was a very quiet man.  He never said much, and my folks said that he had not sought advancement in his work, preferring a simple job with few responsibilities and a basic pay grade.  Oh, he had his family and his home and kids and so forth, but he always seemed to hold back just a little from things.  At parties or gatherings, he stayed quiet, didn't join in much.  Everyone said he could have done this or joined that or gone there or said more.

I wonder how many of those people knew then what I didn't learn until after the man died...that he had been a huge war hero, and was saluted for bravery during one of the most hellish stretches of the invasion.  

Once I knew that, I also knew two other things:  one, that I wish I had known sooner about what he did for us, so I could have passed along my thanks, even as a dumb kid, for his part in saving us.  But also, I came to understand why he held back, why he didn't get involved.  

Maybe he was so glad just to be here, back safe on soil he saved from Hitler, that being here was just enough.

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