By the time I was halfway into watching the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, I was also at least halfway through a box of Kleenex. I watched the sepia-colored pictures of young men flash on the screen. And I do mean young. Some of them were no more than 17 years old. Because of them we are free. A one day remembrance is not enough by a long shot. We should thank God every day for those boys who swiftly morphed into brave men and turned the tide of World War II.
Sometimes, those sepia photos were followed by the man as he looks today, 75 years older. I could see shadows of the young man in the picture in the face of the man today. As I watched and listened to the story of D-Day, I thought about a story Ruble told me of the time he was stationed in France, several years before we were married. Perhaps it was because that was his first assignment in a foreign country, but for whatever reason it was not his favorite place to be. His one outstanding memory of the time spent there was visiting Normandy. He went to that scene of battle not once, but three times.
He said on his first visit to that sacred ground there was a very informative tour guide who led the group. Ruble said the man could almost draw pictures with his words as he described the events that took place. He said there was one young man in his group who kept correcting the tour guide. When a fact would be given, this young man, who seemed to know all about it, would say, “Pardon me, sir, I don’t think that is completely accurate.” Then he would tell the corrected fact as he believed it to be. Ruble said the guide let that pass several times before he had enough.
At the point of “enough,” Ruble said the guide turned to the young man and gave him a “military stare” that only someone who has received and given it can. Then he said, with great authority and in a booming voice, “WELL, PARDON ME, SIR, BUT I WAS CLIMBING THESE CLIFFS, STEPPING OVER THE BODIES OF FALLEN SOLDIERS, DODGING BULLETS, AND WADING THROUGH ANKLE DEEP BLOOD WHEN YOUR MAMA WAS STILL CHANGING YOUR DIAPER!”
Ruble said for a moment everyone stood in stunned silence. Then, they began to applaud. He said the young man’s face turned red and he simply said, “I’m sorry.” Ruble said the tour resumed the tour as if nothing had happened. He said the guide did not tell them before they began that he took part in the undertaking called D-Day. He simply wanted to inform them of all that happened that day so they would know … and remember … and pass it on.
And we do remember. As one speaker said last Thursday, “These brave boys not only won a war, they returned home and made a life, made a living, reared families, and never bragged about what they did here. And very few ever talked about their heroic actions.”
A D-Day veteran who had just turned 100 sat among the marble crosses at Normandy and said, “Old Hitler had to be brought down. We were scared to death, but we did what we had to do.” God bless them.
Dear God, may we never forget them, or what they did.