by Jon Thompson
My Dad wasn’t at Normandy. He entered France from the Mediterranean side. He was overseas three years, and other than a small handful of harmless details he never spoke of his time there. Just by chance we found out a couple years before he died that he witnessed the horrors of Dachau.
I had an interesting experience a couple weeks ago at a gas station. On the other side of the pump an old guy was putting gas in his car, grey hair, wearing one of those caps Vets wear, black, with gold lettering and emblems of their war, branch of service. First glance, impression of his age, I figured Korea. Closer look at his cap, it said: WWII, Iwo Jima, Marines.
I introduced myself. He is 95, still driving, pumping his own gas, and very sharp. I didn’t ask for details of his service, but I got a glimpse into his time on that island when he apologized he was deaf in his right ear and had a hearing aid in his other, and the reason for that was an artillery shell that landed right next to him and four other guys. He said they didn’t know why none of them didn’t get hit by shrapnel.
I have been reading about Iwo Jima for years, some of the most brutal fighting of any in the entire war. It’s what led Admiral Chester Nimitz to comment: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” (Which I’m sure you know was later inscribed on the Iwo Jima Memorial)
And I met one of them. ( And he apologized to me for his hearing.)
June 6, 2018: The 74th Anniversary Of The Invasion Of Normandy
On that day soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen braved the horrendous shelling of German shore batteries to storm the beaches at Normandy and bring down Hitler and Nazi Germany.
On the eve of the invasion, General Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military operation in history. The expeditionary force of 175,000 men were given their orders by Eisenhower, who closed his speech by beseeching “the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
Perhaps it’s best to remember this greatest generation by reflecting on the prayerful words spoken by Franklin D. Roosevelt that day:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas – whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.