69 years ago, my Grandfather was among the troops that stormed Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on 6.6.1944. He hit French soil as a father of a little girl and husband to his sweetheart, Jemima, who were back home in Ohio. When he entered the Army in 1942, it was still an unknown if he’d ever travel far from Ft. Benning, GA.
They hit the beach around 0620 in the morning after a rough boat ride across the Channel from Weymouth, England.
As a child, I’d ask about the war and only get generalities such “England is really green, go see it” or “France had huge hedgerows.” Not much else was said about it. Yeah, asked about Hitler and he saw him in a parade. Mentioned Paris and marching down the Champs-Élysées when they liberated. France from the Germans. Said that the French were really scared.
It wasn’t until after he died on Thanksgiving Day in 1989 when I started digging for more details about his time in the Army that I learned how horrible war was for him. Or, why he was such a homebody who wanted life without the reminder of being a survivor of WW2. He had walked the bloody Continent and saw the entirety of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.
When I traveled to the UK, I took his coin from his regiment so I could fulfil his wish of getting back across the pond. I also saw reminders everywhere of the war from still crumbly buildings, poppy wreaths at every turn, and a sense of deep-rooted tragedy. It was then I really understood why he never spoke of the war.
So in part, today is my choice to remember him on such a day with his image. It’s is my way of saying thank you to the Greatest Generation.
He said to my Aunt Judy after my near-fatal motorbike wreck that cost me my left leg, “That girl has grit.”
I get it from him. That grit was forged today 69 years ago on a beach in France.
Thanks, Grampa…I really miss you. xxx