This morning, I received an amazing update from our Return to Normandy.
I took nearly 500 photos last week, and one of them was of 92 year old Major Earl Tweed, 29th company commander, during the ceremony on June 6th, at Pointe du Hoc. He was approached by the man in the blue jacket, who spoke only French, but wore an American flag tie. They tried to exchange words, but the man on the right only spoke French, and Tweed, only English. But it only took moments, before both were sharing a hug, and some tears began to flow.
At the time, I simply thought, “What a wonderful moment! It was clear the man from France was saying “thank you,”and Tweed was appreciative of the gesture. Our translator had stopped by, the men continued to speak through her, but I had moved to take more photos of the other men. What I/we didn’t know, was that the French man had given Tweed a letter. That letter would later be read on the bus filled with our D-Day vets. The letter read as follows:
“Thank you Dear American Friends and Liberators,
I do not speak your language. What I cannot say to you I write to you. For sixty-nine years I have waited for this day to come to meet you to commemorate and honor by American liberators.
When I was 10 years old, in 1944, it is one of my oldest and most vivid memories of childhood. My imagination is stuck for life in the painful events such as my fright, pain, the sight of death – then of American soldiers and the job of freedom and peach. We, who were the witnesses of this tragedy, we must honor these men – some of whom are still with us today while others have left us. We owe you – for we are free men.
I will never forget the fact that the United States of America came over to our aid on two occasions to help us avoid a defeat during the first World War and to obtain freedom in the second bloody conflict of the century – WWII.
In 1944, we use to be at the pavements to acclaim the smiling soldiers, marching in heavy studded books with threatening faces – faces full of hate. We were at the height of Nazi occupation. We use to admire your (America’s) boats, shops, airplanes and your tanks. We hoped and prayed you would come for us. We had been waiting for you to come for a long time. A time which seemed unending. And then, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, came the SUN. We still feel the emotion for the soldiers who rest in peace in the cemeteries of Normandy, they who never knew the pride of victory nor the joy of a new-found peace. Our freedom was paid for with sadness, suffering and blood.
It is only you, Dear Liberators, Dear War Veteran Friends, who could witness to the suffering and the martyrdom which you underwent on the battlefields of Normandy and Europe, where the smell of death blends with the Earth. We will never forget your lesson of courage.
When I walk in the cemetery at Omaha, my prayers give me hope. It is for us, the witnesses of this human folly to say to and write down for the generations to come, how fragile Peace is.
Welcome to Normandy.”
The French were nothing short of sincere, and appreciative to our vets during our entire visit.
These are moments I’ll never forget. These are men I’ll never forget. So too, goes the grace of a grateful nation.
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.