We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


65th anniversaries
17 July 2009, 09:18
Filed under: Books | Tags: , ,

Last year, my lovely wife asked me if I’d be interested in returning to Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Of course, I nearly jumped out of my chair. She fell in love with Normandy on our honeymoon and wanted to go back. We are likely to go back several times, I’m sure. We even discussed the idea of moving there, though that is a rather slim possibility for now.

Bill Galbraith and Manny Barrios, with Roger Day in the background

Bill Galbraith and Manny Barrios, with Roger Day in the background

So, we went to Normandy, stayed in a self-catering Gite, toured with Battlebus and visited many sites. The highlight of the trip for me was meeting four men: Roger Day, Ian Gardner, Manny Barrios and Bill Galbraith. Manny and Bill are veterans of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Roger and Ian wrote a book about the 506th, Tonight We Die As Men, and the four of them were signing it at the Dead Man’s Corner Museum. I’d heard about it from Paul Woodadge, who runs the Battlebus battlefield tour company, since he would be spending most of June 6th there. Both Ian and Roger were friendly, engaging and seemed honestly interested in my own little research project on Edson Raff.

When Bill was signing my book, I told him about Melissa’s father having served two tours in Viet Nam with the Signal Corps and I let Bill know what an honor it was to meet him. Melissa says that both Bill and I got a little misty over it. As I was talking to Roger, someone thanked Manny prodigiously and Manny said, “I don’t know why you’re thanking me. These fellas wrote the book.” To have given so much, but to expect so little is one of the things that distinguishes these heroes. There’s no pounding of their chests and proclamations that they’re “the greatest”. I’ve often heard veterans say that the heroes are the ones who didn’t come home. The humility and clarity of thought is amazing. Manny, we can’t thank them, so, please, let us thank you….

I got to talking to Roger in more depth about my research and he recommended Charlie Turnbow’s book (and another on the 509th that is out of print and currently selling for about $300). He perked up when he’d heard me talking to Ian about Edson Raff, so when I got down to that end of the line, he was percolating with information and ideas. It was such a pleasure to have someone know who I was talking about and where to look for more information. I’ve now received Charlie’s book from his wife, Beverly, and have started to read it. In a way, studying these men is a way of joining a community. There are other souls out there who are interested in the same things I am, and are eager to share their knowledge. They seem, as I know I do, overjoyed when they find another who shares their compulsion. Some of the joy of life is in sharing, be it sharing bread, sharing wine, sharing labor or sharing knowledge.

On August 4th and 5th, I’ll be attending events to honor the veterans of Operation Dragoon, to be held at the Sheraton Arlington. More opportunities to be with veterans and amongst the members of this community of historians.

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