Today is the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings.
In my mind, this is one of those rare events when we actually can call some people “heroes.” I’m not a fan of the word hero, and it’s used way too much, but, if the word has any meaning left, Normandy was a time that forced some to become one. Do heroes ever “choose” to act heroically? I doubt it. Human beings are forced in a terrible situation to make terrible choices, and sometimes that becomes a heroic act. If we have to call it anything but brave and Human. . .the best of Humanity.
My father and his three brothers all fought in World War Two. To my knowledge they were not “heroes.” And that’s fine. They did what they needed to do in a tragic time, for a good cause (if we can ever say War is a good cause; I’m not sure about that). From what I’ve heard, my youngest uncle had to get special permission from my grandparents so he could go to Europe with his brothers. Somehow they survived. A few were wounded; one lost his wife; several had drinking problems no doubt related to the horrors they saw. They weren’t perfect. But we loved them and they loved the family who welcomed them back home.
Today, I think of Robert, my dad, and my uncles–Paul, Howard and Warren. They’re all gone now. I honor them on this day. I’m proud of them. Though I’m not a flag-waver, I salute their service.
Also today, I find myself wondering if they ever spoke with a Chaplain while they were in North Africa, Italy, France. Chances are they would only have a Christian Chaplain available, but I’d like to think there was a sensitive professional nearby who would not preach at them or merely show interest in their souls. I hope they would feel there was another human being close by who witnessed the horrors they lived through and could simply be there to listen and assist with paper and pencil, mailing letters or a mindful meditation or prayer if needed. . .the small but significant things. That kind of practical, caring presence is what they deserved. It’s what all our military personnel deserve.
The photo above shows “the boys” together either just before or just after the war. They were full of smiles and good humor. They were always joking and punning and playing tricks on each other and all of us. Maybe that was their way of handling the awful memories of what they had done, what they had to do, because it was who they were.
Rest, gentle men. Your part in making the world better is over. It’s up to us now. I’m sure you, band of brothers, would agree. . .we can make it better without more wars.