I made it a point to be up before 0630 this morning. I wanted to see what things looked like, at that hour, realizing it was nothing like D Day 44, but simply to be in the moment on this 69th anniversary.
I took a few minutes just to stare out of our 4th story window into the city of Caen, which like most of France, sits largely in a time capsule of centuries old architecture. Some of the same buildings I see now, were here in 44. Many of the same people I see on the streets this week, were here, their families were here.
At 0630, the sun was shining brightly, first time this week. Almost an omen, to say our men deserved a glorious day, to remember, reflect, and to celebrate themselves, and the lives lost.
By 7:30, our North Texas veterans were on their way to Pointe du Hoc. Home to an epic assault by the Army’s second Rangers, who lost 75 men, in a fight that lasted just 25 minutes up an incredibly steep hillside cliff. It’s one of the most well preserved landscapes of the invasion that exists today. Dozens and dozens of craters, formed by bombs from American forces still dot the landscape. Remains of German gun batteries are still here.
Today, the sun was bright, in stark contrast to their arrival on D Day, when smoke filled the cloudy cold sky, and rough seas met their ships.
Today was about taking in the moment. Pausing, all along the Normandy coast to reflect. Laying wreaths. Praying. Crowds stood silent. Anthems played, French, British, Canadian and American. There were tears for some. Silent steadfast salute for others.
Robert Turecky, C47 pilot during the invasion, told me he was simply humbled by his return to D Day. This is his first time back. He’s moved by what he’s seen this week, He didn’t expect the thanks. Same goes for Robert Blatnik, part of the Army’s 1st division, the “Big Red One”. He’s the 93 year old man who fell to his hands and knees after trudging through the sands of Omaha beach, with his walker, to get to the exact spot where he and his men came ashore.
These men are like so many of our veterans. Slow to talk about the hell they’ve been through. It’s not what tough men like them do. But perhaps it’s a trip like this that can open that story-book of history, that we’re desperate to hear, and they’d rather forget.
But when they do open up, oh what stories they have to tell. These men of the greatest generation I’m blessed to follow this week, lived to tell of a turning point in world history that they made happen. Some are reluctant. Others welcoming. Either way, the clock is ticking. Time is running short. Thank God gratitude lasts forever.
The Daughters of World War II, treated 8 North Texas D Day veterans to 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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