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Posts tagged ‘June 6 1944’

No. 271-272: Normandie—A Soldier’s Letter Home & Giving Thanks

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November 1944, France

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We had the turkey and all the trimmings. Most of the doughboys had turkey also. It’s amazing when you think of all of us, so far from home, observing still in the midst of a battlefield, Thanksgiving. I’m sure there was many who gave thanks to God today. I was sure one of them.I recently was able to see some of the dead boys they had just taken off the battlefield. If some of the men back home, whom of personal ambition attempt to prolong the war, could see them–I’m sure the war would soon end. When you look at them you can’t help but think–why are they dead! Just a year or so ago they were either going to school-working-married, and now they’re dead. Many among them had ambition–all looked forward to the future–Now they’re dead. It keeps shooting thru your mind-again and again-why have these men died? I know why we fight-I know of the values we’re trying to secure. I hope these men have not given their lives for empty words. I’m sorry I went up on slight a philosophical side. But I had to air out some of my thoughts.

Love, Harold

Ryan-Hill-uniform-tallNovember 2006, Iraq

i try not to cry. i have never cried this much my entire life two great men got taken from us way too soon.i wonder why it was them in not me. i sit here right now wondering why did they go to the gates of heaven n not me? i try every night count my blessing that i made it another day but why are we in this hell over here? why? i cant stop askin why? the more i think the more i cry.why? i try n figure out the reasons that people die n i still don’t know why. all i can do is live my life to the fullest but i still don’t know why.

(From the journal of Pfc. Ryan J. Hill, 20, who was riding in a Humvee on Jan. 20, 2007, when an IED buried in the middle of the road detonated under his seat, killing him instantly.)

 

 Thanks little brother for everything you have sacrificed.

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No. 270: Normandie—D-day Beaches

“At the edge of the cliffs, the wind is a smack, and D-day becomes wildly clear: climbing that cutting edge into the bullets.”

— John Vinoc

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The D-Day beaches in Normandie are a study in contrasts. They are flat-out gorgeous—expansive ginger seaside bound by sheer rocky cliffs, burnt-orange and dripping with green. And beyond the shore, a gem-like sapphire sea too blue to be real, dares us to dip our toes, splash about and maybe even go under. I wasn’t expecting real beaches with colorfully clad beachgoers, sand buckets, and picnics. I had anticipated a more museum-like feel or roped off memorial.

Yet among the vacationers, there is a quiet reverence and consciousness amid the many reminders of the thousands of men who stormed the beaches at the crack of dawn on June 6, 1944. In fact the entire coastline, while still a sunshine playground, pays tribute to the British, American, and Canadian armies who laid down their lives to liberate France and occupied Europe.

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Never have I felt so close to a moment in history.

To walk the shoreline and climb the cliffs and watch the waves crash towards Winston Churchill’s brilliant artificial harbor, you can almost see the ghosts of Robert Capa’s black and white photographs slugging through the tempest tides, gunned down or drown in the first minutes of the longest day. You certainly can feel their presence.

Overcome with pride and immense sadness and sheer wonder at how the lucky ones physically and mentally survived. Time and again you are reminded of the doughboys and the thousands of wide-eyed journeys they made from the cities and small towns of America, Britain, and Canada to the violent beaches of Normandy, France, to help a country and people they had never seen and to whom they had little tangible connection.

Yet still they came, willingly and righteously, and offered up their lives.

It is nothing short of astounding.