World War II Veterans honored on 72nd anniversary of D-Day



D-DaySeventy-two years ago, more than 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. General Dwight D. Eisenhower included in his message to the troops, “we will accept nothing less than full victory,” and that is exactly what was delivered. Nazi-Germany had heavily fortified the 50-mile stretch of beach, but the Allied forces brought in at least 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft to support the invasion. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, and their sacrifice led to the movement across Europe to defeat Adolf Hitler.

Today, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Veterans and their community gathered to honor those that fought on D-Day. The ceremony was traditional: Veterans of each generation paying their respects, friends and family observing, a few keynote speakers delivering speeches and media standing by to capture it all. But, when they played a poem titled “Omaha Beach” written and narrated by WWII Veteran Peter Thomas, the importance of this day was truly exhibited. The stanzas of Thomas’ poem are a deep, transparent look into the experiences had on June 6, 1944.

From the poem:

“…The water was red160606-DDay-72-DC-291-a
Red from the dead
Red from the dying
In agony crying.”

“…But we just kept coming in from the sea
Wave after wave, as far as you could see
Sheer courage and determination
Not believing they were done
Dictated the victory that day.”

The sound of a trumpet playing “Taps” concluded the ceremony.

Afterward, I wandered around the crowd and talked with the WWII Veterans. The stories these men told were admirable, yet humble. Henry Tussey was 19 years old when he manned a machine gun on a Higgins boat, ferrying assault troops starting with the second wave onto Omaha Beach, and returning wounded to the transports through the day. Harry Miller fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and then went on to serve in Vietnam and Korea. I asked Herman Zeitchik about the most significant moment during his service. “All the bullets missing me and getting to the other side,” he said. “Retirement,” replied Miller, to the same question.

Recalling the past came with feelings. Members of the “Greatest Generation” are as tough as nails, but each of them had a moment of pause when remembering their friends’ sacrifice. Their eyes swelled up with tears and their voice would shake, but the pride of their service and their friends’ sacrifices remained unsullied.

Author

Timothy Lawson

Timothy Lawson has been a member of VA’s Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016 and is the host of VA’s official podcast, Borne the Battle. He graduated from American University’s School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard posted at embassies in Algeria, Russia, and Peru.

Comments

  1. Tom L. Carpenter    

    thanks for your service to our country in the past in world war two to the men and women who where in the Armed Forces of America. Thank you and your family and friends . best wishes in the future of 2016…

  2. Tom L. Carpenter    

    thanks to World War Two Vets. The men and women who made are country better serving our way of life. Thanks . God bless you and your families thanks for what you did on D-day. best in the future in 2016

  3. R Wayne Ramos    

    As a kid we played army alot. My uncle had an old training film shown to the troops going into battle during WWII. It was called Kill or be Killed. We oh these great men a Huge debt, and feel honored to have personally known many. They gave me the will to inlist, even though my draft lottery number was over 300.

  4. Edmund Simental    

    My father in law was in D-Day, I am Vietnam vet and we would talk about what happened to us during our time in these wars. With tears in his eyes he would tell me that a lot WWII veterans never received the respect for their brave effort after WWII. In my eyes he and all WWII veterans are HEROES. God bless them.

  5. Jim Lenz    

    They are called “the greatest generation” and justifiably so. We will never see their likes again.

  6. RCA    

    The world would have been a different place if not for our WW2 Vets and our Allies. They exterminated evil.

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