D-day survivors are few and far between today as 75 years has now slowly marched by since the June 6, 1944. If you have seen one, then you’ve seen a rare sight that keeps getting rarer by the day. Soon, and likely one day very soon, we will have nothing left of the generation that stormed the beaches in the name of freedom with a mission to save the world. They stormed those beaches to stop the greatest evil the world had ever known. The current generation has seen these men as old, feeble, weak, and sometimes confined to wheelchairs or assisted by walkers. Generations today seeing these men have seen the final years as the old soldiers have been gradually fading away. Maybe you’ve looked at a reunion picture, or a picture of a grandparent and you’ve thought, “How did this old man save the world? How did this old man break across those bloody beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944?” Well, for one thing, they were not always old and feeble. Just like you, they were once young, full of life, laughter, hopes and dreams. But those dreams were set aside for the call to arms. That call would end some lives as young as 17 and 18, give some permanent disabilities, and leave others scared emotionally and mentally for years to come. But take a moment and step back to June 6, 1944, and I’ll share with you how that old man took those beaches that day…
That old man loaded up his pack, gathered his supplies and sent what could be his final letters home. Perhaps he told a girlfriend of his love, a wife of his devotion, a mother not to worry, or a father to be proud. He wrote out his letters and sent them home. He loaded up, placed pictures close to his heart in many cases, and joked nervously with buddies and fellow soldiers as they prepared. When the time came to cross the waters, he may have puked, he may have been sick, he may have cried, or he may have prayed, but he went forward. In the boats as they rocked through the waters, he heard the shells landing around him, he heard the sound of bullets zipping through the air, and maybe he saw the glow of tracer bullets guiding the German fire as it tore down into his friends. He saw men ripped apart, he saw friends die, he saw men jump into the water too soon and disappear beneath the tide as the weight of their gear pulled them down to death. As he reached the shore, he worked his way through the blood soaked sand from men wounded and dead. He learned quickly that to stay on the beach was to die, so he moved forward.
Shells landed around that old man as he made his way across the beaches. Friends who had shared cigarettes, exploded like bombs in front of him, the air was thick with smoke, and the sound of men screaming. Some called for their loved ones and others simply cried out to God. Still, through it all when that old man thought he could not go any further, he pushed on toward the goal. Eventually, through it all, that old man and his fellow soldiers took the ground, they pushed out the Germans, and they achieved what nobody had been able to do in that war in Europe before…they beat back the Germans.
The old man who had leaped out of the plane behind the lines floated like a target through the air. He watched as his friends were shot while still seeking the ground below. Eventually, he landed and fought the enemy all around. That old man and his friends then dug
So if you see that rare sight these days of the D-Day soldier or you glance at an old picture of some old man in a hospital bed wearing a D-Day hat, or with the history of having been there on June 6, 1944, do not see him as you see him today. The man you see today or even in the photographs of recent years, is only the old solider that once was in 1944. Remember him while he’s here and remember him when he’s gone as what and who he was on that day. Remember him like the young Marine once said when meeting a group of D-Day warriors many years ago. They were old, crippled and aged, but the Marine had read their stories, he had heard about how their fellow dead soldiers had fought and he had heard how they pushed on to secure freedom for the world in the grasp of Nazi fear. The Marine did not see simply a group of old men. When looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, all the Marine could say through misty eyes was, “My God, what unbelievable warriors these men once were.”
Friends, do not see those of D-Day as old, worn out, or even gone. No, see those of D-Day as the Marine once saw them, and remember that those “Unbelievable Warriors” set in motion on June 6, 1944, the day that would save the world for you and for me.