My tribute to Memorial Day May 29th, 2017
The date is June 4th 1944, 18 year old Johnny is in England taking a few minutes from a busy training schedule to write to his sweetheart Karen in Seattle. He told her that his greatest dream is to build a house for them to raise their family in and that her love is what gives him the courage to face whatever may come. He had very little time so he asked her to give his Mom a big hug and tell her not to worry, the war will be over soon and I’ll be home to help plan their wedding. As he just settled into writing he heard the whistle blow that meant he had to muster. A quick goodbye and he sealed his letter with a kiss dropping it in the post as he ran to muster.
All afternoon of the 4th they gathered their equipment, held prayer sessions and prepared to board the vessels that would take them across to France and the German Army. The 5th was full of activity, they started to go and were cancelled because of the change in the weather. Nerves were on edge and everyone was in deep thought as they knew they were about to face Hell on Earth.
The night of the 5th they finally got the green light to go, the mood was a solemn one as they made their way across the channel and soon they could hear and see the massive bombardment from the Navy on the shore they were about land on. Surely no one could survive such chaos, between the bombardment from the sea and the air, his buddies were talking about actually walking ashore.
In the very early hours of the 6th the call came to man the boats, Johnny’s was in the third wave and as they were traversing the waves they saw the first of the casualties being brought back. As they neared the shore the boat next to his exploded and was gone in seconds taking all aboard down with her. The thought of walking ashore brought a nervous laugh from his lips. They felt a jolt as the landing craft hit one of the structures the Germans had installed on the beach. The ramp came down with a splash and they found themselves in neck deep water with bullets splashing all around them. The 80 pounds of equipment made the effort to survive double hard. As he was fighting to keep his head above water and his carbine held high he saw the bodies of those who never made the beach floating face down in the surf. When he finally hit dry land he found it hard to run on as his boots dug into the loose sand. When he made the cover of the cliffs above him he realized that he was one of only three survivors from his Landing Craft.
As the day progressed things were getting desperate, they were really pinned down hardly able to get a shot off at the enemy above. They were running out of water and were totally exhausted after the fight just to make it to the cliffs. Finally they breached the cliffs and got a foothold on the ridge above to protect them for the climb up.
Not many men today are still here that made that terrifying climb, many never made it to the beach and even more died on those sands that were dyed red with American blood. Their remains are buried in France but their spirit is still alive in America. Memorial Day is special because it honors those who actually paid for our freedom. Whether it was on a lonely sea when their ship was blown out from under them, in a burning bomber over Germany or on the sands of Tunisia or the swamps of Viet Nam these men were just like Johnny, they had dreams and aspirations for the future, they had sweethearts, wives and mothers who meant the world to them. Many had yet to see their 20th birthday. This is why we cherish and celebrate Memorial Day and why it is so important that we take just a minute to give thanks to those whose courage made our lives possible. Johnny died of his wounds at just 19 during the Battle of the Bulge in the freezing cold and never made it to his wedding.
Memorial Day is more than an extra day off and a picnic, it’s a day to praise and give thanks to those heroes who gave their lives in order that we may live ours in freedom.