Last week, Mr. Wonderful and I toured the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. (You’ll read all about that in the next post.) On display was a special, temporary exhibit called Secrets of WWII. It has some pretty cool stuff…information on the Code Talker program, the story of Lieutenant Colonel Clyde East (Retired) who held the record for Air Medals until 1968 and happens to be a docent at the museum, and the North Platte Canteen that I wrote about last year. All cool information and great stories. But the one that just ripped your guts out was a film about D-Day and the beaches of Normandy. They interviewed a Navy guy who was a crewman on an LST troop carrier. He told of taking the men to the beach, dropping the ramp, and immediately being assaulted by enemy fire. He talked of blood filling the waters. He said soldiers were stepping over their friends’ bodies to follow orders and storm that beach. He talked about the thousands of bodies he saw on that beach on his last run. Then he spoke of what still haunted him: As the men were exiting the landing craft, it was his job to get the ramp up. More than once, he had to push the bodies of soldiers off into the water so that it would raise and they could bring another load. They were men he didn’t know, men whose names are a mystery, yet men he will never forget. The anguish on his face cut right to the quick. Yet, he was proud… proud to help end that horrible war, proud to be a Navy man, proud to do his part, proud to be a Veteran. You think that story is about him, but it isn’t. He was telling it for those who didn’t come home.
Today, we are honoring and remembering the men in the water. The ones who couldn’t tell their stories. The ones who stayed behind in the trenches of France in WWI, on the beaches of Normandy and in the sands of Africa in WWII, in the jungles of Vietnam, on the Korean Peninsula, in the deserts and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan, and so many other battlefields across the globe. Today we honor those men and women who gave all for us.
Patton once said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” I’m not sure we can go without mourning, but every one of us should be thanking God.
Happy Memorial Day!