June 1, 2013:
As I write, we’re 33,000 feet over the Midwest, after our smooth departure from DFW. That’s where finally, after a few weeks of anticipation, I was face to face, with a group of heroes from World War II. As I met each man and shook his hand at the airport, a warm smile and a “thank you” from greeted me from each. Thanks to me? From these men who stormed ashore on June 6, 1944, under a hail of German gunfire and so many things working against them — they want to thank me?
Yes. For taking the time to travel with them to Normandy, they said, to share their stories, their living history. What an honor and privilege to do so. When we land at John F. Kennedy International Airport, our departure gate for Paris will be decorated with American flags. Military music will fill the concourse; messages of thanks will be everywhere. It’s a sendoff that can bring a grown man to tears, and probably will.
There is much anticipation from each of these men. They want to walk on the same sand where they came ashore ’69 years ago, watching buddies die, while they lived. They want to honor their friends and comrades by visiting they American cemetery in Normandy, where 9,387 of America’s finest are buried. All either approaching their nineties, and some older than ninety, step one on this journey, is to get some rest as we make for Paris. An overnight flight is not a big deal for the younger set, but these heroes now need their rest. Each is accompanied by a guardian, who will do everything possible, to keep our boys comfortable, and tend to their needs.
I can feel the excitement in the air, but also have a real good idea of the sobering week we’re about to have. There will be smiles, handshakes and hugs. There will be tears, breakdowns and hard memories to vocalize. But that’s why we are all here. It’s why we at CBS 11 choose to go. These men represent a time in history that will soon only come from history books. The opportunity to share their stories first hand, to walk the sands of Utah and Omaha beaches with the men whose boots landed there in 1944, is a storyteller’s dream.
See the woman on the left pictured in the photo above? Her name is Peggy Harris. Her story is one that is going to blow you away. More on that as we go. So for now, we’re on our way. Updates as we go, but the full weight of what we’ll witness this week begins on CBS 11 news at 10 p.m., on Monday, June 10. Next stop, JFK airport, and the send off these heroes deserve. Until then…
The Daughters of World War II, is responsible for taking North Texas veterans on this once in a lifetime trip. The Dallas-based non-profit organization operates solely from donations. If you’d like to donate, click here to visit their website.
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