Like so many last Sunday, I watched the Super Bowl (and for once, the team that I wanted actually won! Congrats, Ravens!). I couldn’t help but notice the deification that took place as the announcers spoke of various players and their accomplishments. Who would want to or ever could take away from the enthusiasm of a Super Bowl victory? It was well deserved and it’s part of our American culture. They are our sports heros (at least for a day). But unlike a sports hero, I’m thinking today about the unsung heroes from WWII. Tom Brokaw called them the “Greatest Generation” in his book of the same name.
I want to share about two heroines whom I was privileged to meet during our D-Day trip last June to Normandy. Their names are Dorothy Levitsky Sinner and her sister Ellan Levitsky Orkin. Three months after the Allied Invasion of June 6, 1944, they arrived in France serving with the U.S. Army Nursing Corps for a year. Today, Dorothy and Ellan (both in their 90s) live in Delaware. Each year, they visit Normandy during the D-Day Celebrations in June.
During my tour for D-Day in 2012, two of the guests in my group were cousins of Dorothy and Ellan, so we were privileged to meet the ladies and witness the ceremonies in Normandy during which they were honored.
Each year the sisters return to France to commemorate the Allied invasion of D-Day and the residents of Ste. Marie du Mont and Ste. Mere Eglise welcome them with open arms. The French citizens fondly cherish their presence as a reminder of what Dorothy and Ellan did for the people of France and what so many Americans, Canadians, British, and other allies sacrificed in the name of freedom.
These ladies are treated as heroes and rightfully so. The French have not forgotten and never will forget what these two ladies did--- what America did for their country. Dorothy and Ellan are living symbols of the selfless gift and ultimate sacrifice given by so many during the war and when they are honored in Normandy, the people of France are thanking them once again for this unspeakable gift. Both sisters are proud and humble Americans who served their country and answered a call when the need was greatest. We can’t ever thank them enough. Truly, it was an experience beyond words to meet these heroines and feel their zest for life and get an inkling of what they must have seen during those most harsh of months and how they survived. To see how the people of Normandy annually honor them and put out the red carpet for them is very moving and I appreciated my new heroines.
The crowning touch to this story came in October of 2012 when the cousin of Dorothy and Ellan called me to tell me that he had just returned from a ceremony at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC. At this ceremony, Dorothy and Ellan were recognized along with 11 other World War II veterans (my heros) with France’s prestigious Legion of Honor. Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor is the highest award given by France to any man or woman. How wonderful to know that these undeniably heroic women were recognized with such an award. They are my heroes. They are true American heroes.
If this post has piqued your interest in D-Day, please have a look at our Normandy and Paris D-Day Escorted Tour where we'll join in on the commemoration ceremonies of the 69th anniversary of D-Day. We have a few openings still available for this tour. We hope you'll join us!