Today, as I do every year on June 6, I headed over to Youtube to listen to some speeches. Not unlike the Reagan speech posted in my last blog, I make a point to look back or listen to moments from our history every year. ( I might note, that my bachelors and masters degrees are in History, I may or may not be a bit of a history nerd)
Today, however, carries a tremendous weight that I can not fathom. On this day, which launched Operation Overlord in 1944, such an incredible feat was set in motion. I am sure we have all seen the movies, or miniseries that follow or document this day of carnage and atrocious violence that few have or ever will have to endure.
When I listen to the above speech, I find myself imagining myself along side the men and, lets be honest, boys that were setting on airfields, on Navy vessels, and preparing for this ominous undertaking. Myself, at 32 years old, can not imagine the insurmountable anxiety, excitement, and utter fear of the unknown. They knew their job. They knew what they were to face.
Then, as I read back through a few historical articles recalling the day, I always find myself staring into the picture above... I am not looking on as one would do at an incredible work of art that hangs solely on a dark museum wall, but rather, I look on and wonder what a man could have been thinking as they rode the choppy waters to a land they had never been, to storm a hardened enemy face on. I see men who have the grit, bravery, notion of being part of a much bigger cause.
I search this image and ponder the men's names, were they brothers? Husbands? Friends? Who of them made it home to continue these roles in life, family and friendship. I look on as a wanderer in myself, could I have done this? This image sticks with. I have seen many captions on this image over the years, and one rings with so much truth: "Your day has been neither this challenging nor this significant!" I truly believe there to be no truer statement.
I would like to leave you with one last story, if you can stand to read on:
As a born and bred American (Texan) I have always been proud even verging on arrogance at the Favor we did for the french! As the jokes have always had the french at the butt end of a joke. However, I was fortunate enough to have spent a semester abroad in France while in undergrad. Of course it was fun and beautiful with a upbeat culture, but it was the time I spent with my Host Family that showed me true respect and understanding of the events that took place across Europe so many years ago.
(My older sister had participated in the same study program a few years prior to myself, she had the same host family. My sister and parents had stayed in touch with them since my sister's time there. We had all become great friends. )
My father retired the year I was in France and my mother had just completed her first year teaching. They planned a trip to France after my program was over. We all spent a couple of days enjoying each others company with our host family. As if we were all family.
On our last day with them, Daniel (host dad), went to dig around in the back of on old closet. When he returned, I learned what it all meant, he returned to the table and laid out a very plain and unsuspecting knife, dulled like a butter knife in appearance, and cheap looking. He then told us the story: When he was a very young boy, he went to a summer camp for boys in Normandy. One day out walking the beach kicking around he saw it sticking out of the sand. He pulled it out and and cleaned it up. Stamped on either side of the handle, was US. He told us he had cherished the item his whole life, as it was a piece of a US Mess Kit. No doubt belonging to someone during the D-Day operations. He lamented over this treasure for some time, until he became very somber and his eyes began to glisten, " I do believe it is time that it goes home." offering it to my father. At which point we all broke down a little. He continued to thank us ( having had nothing to do directly with the war) and continued to tell of the hell his parents had gone thought during occupation.
That day I realized first hand what an aging old man had wanted to say his entire life. He just wanted to thank someone, somehow for the great sacrifices that were made so many years ago. (Below you will see an image on the mess knife: not the exact one, but just for reference.) This is now a treasure to my family, which often reminds us of the sacrifices made not just on the beaches, but across all fronts of the war.
To the men and women who have served, are currently serving, and will serve.
THANK YOU !