Don't be a fool and die for your country. Let the other sonofabitch die for his.
-- General George S. Patton
June 06, 2004
The Sixtieth Anniversary of D-Day
Today is a momentous day in world history. Today marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
On June 6th, 1944, over 150,000 men landed by sea and air in Normandy to liberate France and all of Europe from Nazi oppression. Operation Overlord was to be the most massive military assault in history. It planned for the invasion of the 50-mile stretch of coast to be completed in fewer than 24 hours.
The valiant efforts of "the greatest generation" were fruitful. Ultimately the Nazi's were defeated and Europe was liberated.
Now, 60 years later, only roughly one fourth of veterans who fought for this nation in the Second World War are still alive.
Every morning I start my duty day at the base gym, 0600 sharp. Every morning I see men and women from all walks of life that have chosen a life of service. There is one man who stands out in the crowd. Each morning there is an elderly gentleman on the treadmill beside me. Now at 88 years young he doesn't run nearly as fast as I do, but he is there nonetheless. He walks at a very respectable pace for a man his age for 45 minutes each morning 5 days a week. It is almost hard to imagine this gentleman as a battle hardened Veteran of Operation Overlord.
Over the last few months I have started talking to him in passing. First our exchanges were limited to a hello and then a little more. I noticed that each morning when he arrives at the gym he proudly wears a hat that has WWII veteran across the front.
Friday I asked him how he felt about the upcoming 60th anniversary of D-Day. Before he could say a word his eyes filled with tears. He told me that he was the only one left. He was the only member of his unit that was still alive. I acknowledged that must be tough and I too felt a little choked up. We spoke at great length about the days leading to "the big jump" and how scared he was and how he knew he "was going to die in some unknown village in France." He told me about how as he was falling to the earth all he thought about was his fiancée back home. They had plans to take over his father’s farm in Idaho and raise a large family.
Out of pure respect I didn't ask many questions. I let him tell what he felt he needed to share.
He is a remarkable man. He was once a twenty eight year old Sergeant in the Airborne who was hard as nails, now he is a frail old man. However, despite the years, there is more strength in the belly of this great soldier than in any ten of today’s youth.
The respect that I have for him and his generation is unwavering. They are a shining example of America's finest. If it weren't for men like him, German would most likely be the national language of France and many other European nations.
I was late to work last Friday (although my boss didn't mind when I told him why). I lost track of the time while listening to his stories; most of which I choose to keep for myself.
I have a profound respect for his generation and consider it an honor to run alongside this true American Hero.
To the greatest generation my sincerest thanks.
For all who are interested, check out BLACKFIVE for a list of great bloggers who have posted tributes to D-Day on this most momentous of days.