D Day Plus 76 Years

| June 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Seventy-six years ago today, my father was in England, getting ready to drive a truck onto a barge that would take him to Normandy, France the next day, D Day plus one.

He was 25 years old. In a letter he wrote to his sister on July 22nd, 1944, he said, “They have eased up on the censoring enough to so that I can say that we came to France the hard way – landed on the beach. There was no interference. It was quite a thrill tho as we approached the beachhead, to think that we were landing in another foreign country.”

The guilelessness of that description is so very poignant. Here he was, participating in one of the most significant events of the 20th century, and he was excited about entering a foreign country. That’s what stuck with him a month and a half later. I didn’t see that letter until decades after he died and it is one of the regrets of my life that I never really talked to him about his experiences in WW II. He died when I was 17 and I was too absorbed with myself to care.

To honor his memory, I visited the World War II Memorial at sunrise today. It was a remarkable and somewhat melancholy experience. I arrived near the memorial at about 5:15 am and had trouble finding parking, due to various traffic restrictions in response to the major demonstration planned for today. Streets were being blocked and police and military personnel were all over the place.

At the memorial, there was a small group of young soldiers milling around, some strolling through the memorial. They were probably about the same age as my father when he was preparing to cross the English Channel. I have to admit feeling a bit torn about their presence. On the one hand, they are worthy descendants of the men and women memorialized on that site for saving democracy from one of its greatest threats in WW II. On the other hand, they are here in DC at the behest of a man who I believe represents the greatest threat to our democracy since those terrible days. I hope I come to the view in the months and years ahead that my fears were exaggerated. But we shall see. Frankly, it is the demonstration that brought those soldiers here that gives me hope.

As I watched the soldiers walking around the memorial, I desperately wanted to tell them that my father landed at Normandy, but couldn’t find a way to open a conversation.

As I was leaving, one of the soldiers said to me, “Have a good day, sir.”

There was my opening. I turned and walked toward the group and said, “Do you mind if I brag a bit?”

The soldier said, “Sure.”

I said, “My father landed at Normandy, so this is a very special day for me.”

Looking surprised, he said, “Your father?! Why, you don’t look a day over 20!”

I laughed and said, “Thank you.” And thought, “Maybe we’ll be OK.”

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