Veterans News

Remembering D-Day – and Beyond


They were unsung, these local World War II vets, whether they threw themselves at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 – 75 years ago, ended up at Anzio, were at the Argonne, flew the Pacific in a TBM Avenger, served as a navy signalman, or landed at Iwo Jima.  In a rural town of 500, it always seemed we were blessed by World War II veterans.

As I got older, these locals seemed two people – the cheerful one I grew up with, worked for, was taught by, and thought I knew – and another, more mysterious person, a boy who grew up too fast, saw too much, and worked not to remember what is hard to un-remember.

On days like D-Day, which unfolded 75 years ago this week, we celebrate the courage, can-do and victory of these unstoppable young men – the ones who lived and ones who did not.  They literally saved the world in which we live.  Without them, freedoms we take for granted would not exist at all or, at best, would be circumscribed by evil.  We owe them everything. 

D-Day was an epic battle, American forces numbering 73,000, 34,250 boys headed for Omaha Beach – a five-mile-wide tract of sand overhung by a 150-foot vertical cliff, and 23,250 boys deployed to Utah Beach.  To that, add 15,500 airborne troops.  

German artillery, mortars and interlocking machine gun fire riddled anything that moved.  By the time D-Day was over, 1,465 American boys lay dead on Omaha Beach, another 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, 26 missing – but the beachhead belonged to freedom. 

Hard-bitten fighting followed, Germans behind hedgerows all the way to Paris, where Americans arrived late August 1944.  The Battle of the Bulge still lay ahead, the Argonne, Bastogne and more casualties, but they were in Paris. 

Meantime, others were fighting and winning back Italy, some inserted from Sicily, others Naples and Anzio.  Eventually, they took Rome on June 4, 1944, then pressed the fight across the Arno River, liberated Florence, worked their way methodically north.  

In the Pacific, the US Navy and Marines saw much of the worst, from the Solomon Islands and Okinawa to Iwo Jima.  On sea, land and in the air, the human toll required for victory was inordinately high – but Americans won those beachheads for freedom, too.

Then, the boys came home – the ones who survived.

Where I grew up, one local had been a first scout in Italy, saw 344 days of combat, and did not talk about it until 92.  He won the Bronze Star.  Every Battle north of Naples, he was in.  His three brothers fought too – and all came home.  One served as our postmaster for 40 years.  

Another local saw combat on Omaha Beach, was promoted to captain on the beach when others fell, won the Croix de Gare with a Silver Star for heroism at the Bulge, never spoke about it.  I only learned about my English teacher’s past after his death.  His brother-in-law won the Distinguished Service Cross in Sicily and died defending his company from a Panzer attack.

Another high school teacher found himself at Iwo Jima, a fact not mentioned until he was in his 90’s.  He is crisp, eyesight and mind sharp still, but some sharp places he will not take me, and perhaps that is as it should be.  Each of these veterans protected us over there, and again on their return – in easily missed ways.  

In this little town, three World War II vets were my bosses, one the TBM Avenger turret gunner, the second that Navy signalman in the Pacific, a third who never spoke of what he did.  None talked war. 

The turret gunner had napalm scars; you could not miss them.  The signalman built houses, you could not make him angry.  The third was a farmer and talking was not required.  All were mentors, not mentioned the war.  Not self-impressed, they just felt no need to go there. 

All this said, several of them spoke as they entered their 90s.  For this reason, if no other, paying a visit, listening, saying thank you to World War II veterans again, is worth every minute.  We are blessed to still have some with us.  This D-Day is as good a time as any to have a conversation.  

On such days, we try to imagine what those we know saw, did and lived through – something terrifying yet necessary, innately honorable yet horrible, something they had to do, did not want to do, but did anyway – and in many cases, could not communicate to anyone once they got home.

So, for those who risked all on our account, thank you – once again.  Thank you cannot be said often enough.  D-Day is unique, but also emblematic.  High risks attached throughout the war for most combat veterans, and if these boys – and they were boys – had not done what we did, we could not live in the peace we do today.  Where I grew up – and across the nation – World War II vets are unsung.  Time to remember – on D-Day and beyond.  

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Jude OConnor
3 years ago

I find it very difficult to look at a military cemetery.

Jack Thomas
3 years ago

Without the sacrifices and bravery of U.S. and Allied Forces storming the beaches at Normandy and ultimately defeating the Nazi threat — as well as winning the war against Japan in the Pacific — history would’ve been written much differently. The “Greatest Generation” did what it had to do, and for that we owe them a debt none of us will ever be able to repay. They proved beyond question that “Freedom isn’t free.” Post-WW2 liberty in Europe and for America came at a high price which, even today, too many take for granted.

3 years ago

I will share this well written and descriptive article with my 26 y/o son. So important that we keep a light on our country’s heroes and how they bravely secured our freedom .

Cheryl F
3 years ago

My Dad was a Marine serving in the Pacific during WWII, so I know all too well the sacrifices that were made. We all remember the courage of those firefighters and first responders who ran into the Twin Towers to try to save those trapped there, only to lose their own lives in the process. That is something we can relate to because most of us lived through it. The sacrifice of our WWII Veterans, especially those who participated in the landings on D-Day, are exactly the same kind of heroes. They, like those on 9/11, went to a place from which most knew there was a good chance they would not return. But they still went. The men of D-Day – The Greatest Generation of Heroes – might well be called the role models for all those who followed – no less brave and selfless and determined than those whom we lost on 9/11. It’s the same kind of bravery. All were scared, all were duty-bound, all were the best this nation had to offer. Thinking of D-Day as it relates to 9/11 might help many to put it into perspective because their sacrifice is such that the human mind has trouble grasping it. Yet, there it is for all to see in everything we enjoy in this country, all these years later. Thinking back on it now brings overwhelming feelings of admiration and awe, and yes, love. Love for what they did for us and gave us all.

The Veterans of D-Day and WWII WERE the Greatest Generation. We need to keep them in our hearts and honor their bravery and love of country every day. We must never forget what they did for us.

God Bless America and God Bless all those who have sacrificed for her. We are the land of the free because of those brave WWII Veterans.

3 years ago

School children need to learn about “The Greatest Generation” and the sacrifices they made.

Alan DeMattia
3 years ago

My Dad, now 93, has never really mentioned his experiences in the war. The other day we were sitting in his basement smoking pipes and talking. He looked up and said, “You knew a bullet was close when you could hear it sizzle as it went by.” The courage of these men is unbelievable.

3 years ago

My father was part of the greatest generation. He served as a Navy Lieutenant Commander in the Pacific. I will always be thankful to ALL who have fought for freedom around the globe. May we NEVER forget. God bless you!

3 years ago

The D-Day 2019 ceremonies hopefully have opened some eyes of the hate-America-first people who seem to have populated our beloved country since the 1960s. Perhaps the returning WW2 veterans should have painfully opened up and talked about why they volunteered to face the atrocities they encountered. Without the push on D-Day, we would all be speaking German as our “native” language. We would be worshipping in the 1,000 year reich and bowing down to images of Adolf Hitler as our savior. Thank God for the leadership we had in the 1940s and the men of great character who chose to follow them even unto death. Some things are worse than dying and living under totalitarianism is one of them. The new socialists have no idea what they are asking for in America today. I can’t imagine how long it would take before we would have mass suicides by the people who have been raised in our culture since the 1960s with the “me-first” mentality they exhibit.

We have always had “greatest generations” from the beginning. George Washington and the patriots who risked life, liberty and fortune to give us our Constitution and form of government. About 100 years later, Abraham Lincoln and
the Union Army held strong and kept the Union together and gave freedom to our black brothers and sisters who were
slaves, and almost 100 years after that the WW2 warriors surfaced and protected not only our nation against Nazism but the whole world. We have yet to defeat Communism/Socialism and we face that today what with candidates for public
office who embrace Socialsm. I pray we don’t have to send our finest off to another world war to rid ourselves of this menace once and for all. Then there is Islam which wants world domination.

All I can say is, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Greg Russell
3 years ago

If demon-crats today had their way, wed have lost that battle, and therefore, lost the war. Liberals dont have the stomach to do the hard work, and aren`t lucid, and so, are completely out of touch with the realities of the world.

Terry C
3 years ago

75 yrs is not a long if you where fighting for your life and those around you to obtain a goal of freedom. Those guys killed and watched there brothers be killed for something that is so huge we can’t even begin to appreciate. I pray for the youth (15-40) that they would learn why someone would give their life like this.

Jeff Plunkett
3 years ago

I am 65 years old and did not serve in the military and cannot imagine what brave men and women went through in any of the wars. I read many of the comments below and they all are so well said and almost brought tears to my eyes. Thank you to all veterans just isn’t enough for them. I am humbled by their service and pray they all had wonderful lives if they returned. I only wish our country could return to that time as it pertains to patriotism. God Bless America

Judith A. Krinock
3 years ago

Was born on this day we celebrate in gratitude. Am forever blessed by all these men who served in this war to secure our freedom.

Big Al
3 years ago

These were the boys and men who paid the ultimate sacrifices to remove tyranny and secure liberty not only for those nations in which war was fought but abated the direct threats to the United States of America. They and the women who also served will be long honored.

Elmer Warren Sagehorn
3 years ago

We have Freedoms Today because of the BRAVE Men and Women who Serve us with Great peril to themselves with the ultimate in Sacrifices. Lest WE Forget. Their Sacrifice must be Remembered and Treasured. As you Go about your daily lives Keep in the Back of Your mind those who Gave ALL for you to Live it. Freedom is NOT Free! Someone has to pay for it. Be Proud and Glad their are those who are willing to Fight the Good Fight for Love of Country,

Robin Aanenson
3 years ago

Thank you Mr. Charles for thoughtfully highlighting the quiet influence of freedom our veterans convey on American citizens and those in the countries we helped liberate. My mentors, as well, have said little about the wars in which they served even though it has molded their character forever. I always look forward to your articles.

3 years ago

I wanted to bring something up, this morning I tried to get on the Amac site news letter and I got a note it was blocked. Anyone know anything about this? If not does anyone know how to contact AMAC so I can report the incident.

3 years ago

The only people that will not find the men that served during World War II as being braid are some of the Communist we have in this country I for one thought Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the biggest loser we ever had as an American president outside of Barack Obama both of them wanted to turn this country into a socialist state. My dad is a Korea veteran and I knew a lot of former World War II vets and I had the honor of knowing several World War I vets as a child the 1 thing I am very thankful on this day is for those men that sacrifice their lives so that we could enjoy what we are today and not speaking German or Japanese. I myself I served in Vietnam And I feel very blessed that I didn’t have any these little wimp pussies with their little pussie hats on and their little antic shet serving beside me in Vietnam because I wouldn’t ever known who I wish to shoot at the enemy or them or who was going to shoot at me next. But on this day it’s all about those brave men on Omaha beach and those that did not make it back those are the ones we should be honoring. Jim 14th as black day folks unfortunately I worked with some young kids that didn’t have a clue what June 14 stood for that I need to know what June 6 was they didn’t know what December 7th was they had no idea what Memorial Day was for other than to have a 3 day weekend. I was sent to Korea to learn taekwondo and I am a master black belt in taekwondo in it takes everything I have not to just wanna slap one of these kids Internet existence organ knock some sense into him I don’t know which it is because they have no respect for anyone in this country anymore because they feel entitled and everyone owes them something I still say put him in a uniform don’t give him a gun does I don’t believe in them and dump their asses off in a hot landing zone. Since I’ve been on my Lord soapbox here I wanna thank every man and woman that served his country in uniform and especially for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice is they are the true heroes not these wimps it play football not the idiots that think they’re actors or singers there nothing now gutless cowards.

Diana Erbio
3 years ago

Forever grateful to those who fought so courageously for freedom! We must never forget, and we must pass on the history to the next generations so they never forget and continue to pass on that history. ???

3 years ago

was 5 at this time but had many vets of WW11 around me some POW’s some from Korea one in particular that pumped gas at the local station that was a Japanese POW
he never talked much and was in pour health must have had a really brutal experience

3 years ago

May father quit high school in the middle of his senior year and joined the Marines. He was sent to Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history! When he returned home he married my mother whose husband was killed at the battle of Okinawa. She already had two young children. He was a good man and wonderful father and i miss him. He passed away in 1999. ALL AMERICANS AND ALL THE WORLD SHOULD THANK GOD FOR GIVING US MEN LIKE THESE!

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