Archive for June, 2019

265 “A Day To Always Remember…”

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

By Hetty Gray

# 265

June 6, 2019

For the last twenty-plus years I have never failed to file a column on this day. It is seminal to my childhood. My parents’ generation lived it, yet seldom discussed it. It was, in so many cases, something to hold inside and remember. Not so much as a tiny hamlet in this nation was spared losing a man or woman in World War II. Today, we pause for an anniversary that commemorates sacrifice in terms few can really understand.

Seventy-five years ago today my father lost several of his good friends. Army personnel, both on the ground and in the air, they gave their last full measure of devotion as the Allied Expeditionary Force came onto the beaches of Normandy in the first onslaught that was to cripple and defeat Nazi Germany.

A dear member of my family jumped from an LST as it hit the beach and scrambled up those rugged cliffs among his comrades and countless others he had never seen.

Looking at history texts in today’s curricula I lament the fact that the bravery of those men and the tremendous challenges they faced are given little space. In fact, World War II comes across as just another war.

Where the teenagers in the mid-1800s often took charge of their families when a father — or both parents — died. They never gave a second thought to their sudden responsibilities. They put on their big boy pants and forged ahead to do the best they could.

My generation was involved in the Vietnam War, but that war was not a conflict that threatened the whole of Western Civilization as we know it. It was, of course, a struggle for freedom of the South Vietnamese populace. America has always come to the aid of people fighting for freedom.

Our struggle came against the British in the 18th century, and the determination of the Founders and the tattered soldiers under George Washington was alive and well on “D Day.”

We are unique. Our nation, once it achieved its freedom, never relinquished it to those who sought to destroy it. There is nothing as tempting to dictators as taking down a government that gives its people liberty.

The speech that President Donald Trump gave in France should be reading material for every man, woman and child in America. His descriptions of Private First Class Pickett mirrored the courage of uncounted thousands buried nearby.

The feats of “”D Day” would be completely impossible today. Aerial images would give away any modicum of deception. The cardboard tanks and airplanes on the ground in England would be seen for what they are.

Losses were monumental. We lost so many men — essentially a good portion of an entire generation. Those who fought grew up in the wake of World War I. Their parents and grandparents had good reason to fear another war in Europe. Yet, when their country called, youngsters — yes, youngsters — lined up to enlist. Many lied about their age. It was not unusual to find a 16 or 17-year-old fighting alongside older men.

Few of the returning veterans talked about their wartime experiences. Fortunately for us, organizations across the country have been filming videos for the last decade or so. Those who sat down to tell their stories nearly a lifetime after their service did so in order to “set the record straight.” Videographers knew the importance of accuracy. They knew that only these men and women had a wealth of knowledge. It is to their credit that they took the time to do these videos. Many military museums have a wealth of these films. They are well worth viewing.

There are still some surviving veterans from World War II. At least as of last year, Richard Arvin Overton was the oldest of his veteran peers at 112 years of age. A Texan born and bred, he certainly echoes the mantra of many proud residents of the Lone Star State.

If you have the chance to view the video from today’s ceremonies in France, scan the men behind our president. We are not likely to see their equal again. Oh, I do not diminish the bravery of those who serve today, but they will not face the odds that those storming the Normandy beaches or fighting in the Ardennes faced. Armaments have come a long way and protection afford our soldiers would have looked like science fiction in the 1940s.

If you have children or grandchildren, take the time to teach them about World War II. That conflict, long, protracted and costly beyond belief, secured freedom for Western civilization. We are forever in their debt. They forged ahead with faith in their God and their country. They knew, to a man, that they might never come home alive. Yet they fought on….

Just reflect on U. S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe.

He is credited with perhaps the most famous quote of the entire war.

Anthony McAuliffe (2 July 1898 – 11 August 1975) was the United States Army general who was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium during World War II’s “Battle of the Bulge,” and is famous for his single-word reply of “Nuts!” in response to a German surrender ultimatum.

His spirit and tenacity is representative of this generation of soldiers and is seen today in our fighting men and women. Americans have never backed down to tyrants. They have fought tooth and nail to secure liberty for their fellow peoples around the world.

It is in our genes to help others. We have reason to be proud of this country. Today, and for as long as you breathe free, please pray for those who died along those cliff-edged beaches seventy-five years ago. Remember those who came home. They are still among us. They deserve our prayers, and our thanks. Think about it