Today we celebrated the 69th Anniversary of the D-Day Allied Landing Invasion of Normandy. What a full and wonderful experience. As always, we were accompanied by our fabulous guide who took us to Ste. Mere Eglise, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Pte. du Hoc. My guide is also a dear friend whose Dad was in the French Resistance, was captured in Caen, and who had the unfortunate misfortune (understatement to be sure!) to be sent to Dachau Prison Camp for the remainder of the war. (He survived the war, but not without great pain!)
To possibly describe the emotions and experience during our D-D day tour today would be impossible on many levels, but I must share our final encounter that rather capsulizes the dramatic and powerful feelings that permeated the day.
We were wrapping up our visit to Pointe du Hoc and had occasion to meet up with a Veteran. We were thanking him for his service to our country --- something that goes on throughout a day in Normandy when you have a chance meeting with an individual who’s charm, attire, medals, and seasoned demeanor indicate that he is likely a Veteran of WWII. Birney Havey was such a man. He is 92 and a handsome individual with a radiance and persona that made us smile with enthusiasm and we appreciated the privilege of meeting him.
Our guide thanked him profusely for his service to our country and explained that his father had been in the French Resistance and sadly had been sent to Dachau. At that point, Mr. Havey said that he was part of the 42nd Infantry Division that had liberated Dachau. The two men hugged with this realization – our guide realizing that this American Veteran had been a part of the freeing of his father from the tyranny of the prison camp after several years of enslavement and the Veteran realizing that he’d made a connection with someone whose dad had been freed because of the work of his fellow soldiers so many years ago. The connection was amazing. The experience was precious, tender, and poignant.
It has been 69 years since the D-Day invasion and the total Normandy experience must be kept alive for future generations to understand and hopefully appreciate the sacrifice that so many gave so that we might be able to know the freedom that we do.