It was a quiet mid-day Saturday
in St. Mère Église - the first town liberated by the allied
soldiers on June 6, 1944. Before the 6:30 AM battle of D-Day began,
Airborne Rangers parachuted into the town of St. Mère Église
around midnight. Their assignment was to secure the town and key
intersections and bridges in the French countryside. Small battles
ensued, in and around the center of town. One paratrooper, Bob M.,
had his parachute catch on the spire of the church. He hung in his
harness until the light of morning when he was finally spotted by German
soldiers - who shot him as he dangled from the steeple.
The Normandy Coast is a living memorial to the D-Day invasion. As we walked the town, we came across an elderly British gentleman and his son, who himself was about 50 years of age. The elderly gentleman, looking at Jim and I asked, "Are you boys over here looking at the historical sites." Yes, we told him, and chatted for a few more minutes. I then said to him, "Something tells me that this is not the first time you have been here - followed by a pause - indicating that he had indeed been on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. "Yes, I was here - actually down the beach a bit further," he replied - rather shyly. I told him that the world owed him and those who came with him on that longest day, a debt of gratitude - for they had changed the course of history. He quietly accepted my comments. I thought, this is who Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book, The Greatest Generation.