On Friday I decided that I should finally get around to going to the D-Day Memorial. I always told myself that when I visited the memorial, it should be when they have the anniversary and speakers to go along with it. I arrived pretty early, parked at the designated areas and was bused to the event. I will say that I don’t remember school buses having such little leg room!
When we pulled up to the event I saw many people in uniform; some were reenactors, some from current military, some police, and many others in military dress that had actually been in WWII. If you know me at all, you will know that I have always had a soft spot for World War II and the history of the war. I walked around the event for some time, visiting the various tents that were set up with military and historical artifacts from the war.
The event had many speakers and while I wasn’t always able to hear them I did see thousands of people who came out to show respect and honor to the people who had survived and lost their lives in service of our country. It was a very moving experience and while I toured the grounds I saw more veterans than I could count.
As the day went on I found myself looking for shade and found a small area away from the main event to sit at picnic tables and purchase water from the vending machines. While sitting there a couple of gentlemen walked up and asked if they could sit at the table with me. I encouraged them to join me without realizing that one of the older men was an actual veteran from WWII. We talked for probably thirty or forty minutes about where he came from and his experience in the war.
He told me that he had joined up as infantry and while he didn’t storm the beaches, he was there shortly after the fighting had stopped. He told me that he had never seen such a sight before. Ships that were sitting straight in the air from where they had been destroyed, others that were literally being held together by chains, and German soldiers that had been taken captive. He explained that while he was in the service, his commanding officer told him that they needed personnel to be medics.
“I’ve never worked as a medic or had the training” he told his CO.
“You can drive an ambulance, can’t you?” his commander responded.
So from then on out, he was working with a medical unit. He told me that from watching nurses and doctors, he learned enough to even teach the arriving medical personal how to do their jobs.
As I sat there and listened to his stories, I couldn’t help but let my mind draw a picture of when this old man that sat in front of me was young and enlisted to serve is country and do it proudly. We talked about how the army shaped his life and taught him lessons that he still used to this day. He told me that you should be happy with what you do and when you’re happy with it, do the very best you can. Simple words, but a great philosophy.
After our talk, he and his son decided to leave and visit the gift shop. I told him that I appreciated his service and sacrifice; he thanked me for being there and listening to him. I thought the rest of the day how maybe he doesn’t always have someone to listen to what he has to say and in our lives how we very rarely take the time to listen to the stories of the senior citizens in our lives. I fear so much history is lost by merely reading about it in books and not listening to those people who actually lived those events.
I must say that the day was a nice change of pace and I thank the people who serve our country for standing up and defending what is right.