6 JUNE

In a few days it will be 6 June. Why is it special? – all the military types know and many civilians as well – Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe.
A few years ago I was privileged to do a Battle Staff Ride to the Normandy Beaches. About a month before going each of us were assigned a unit to research and their part in the battle, drew the 121st Engineers. On the ride over on the bus we watched “The Longest Day”. The next morning we were standing on Omaha beach at day break, I was not prepared for the feelings I felt.
I was standing at the low water mark and looked up the beach. It was almost flat with the dunes and banks rising high above it. My first thought was, “My God, how did these guys have the guts to cross this killing field?” As I slowly walked towards the high ground I began to look: to my left was a firing bunker, but the firing ports weren’t straight forward it was at a 45 degree angle. I looked to my right and saw another one mirroring the effect – then it hit me = interlocking, grazing fire made to kill anything in range! How anyone survived I’ll never know. As I slowly went up, the slit trenches were still there and behind were the mortars. Placed along the beaches were some bigger gun emplacements as well. I learned on the beaches, aiming stakes had been set so the mortar men, machine gunners knew exactly what their ranges were. The entire beach was dialed in. I don’t have to explain the meaning of this to any of my Grunt Brothers, I know the hair on the backs of their necks will rise just thinking of this. The soldiers landed and got bogged down, but then they broke through and we know the rest. You can read this but unless you have walked that battle field you will never understand (unless you’ve been under fire as well).
Once they secured the beached then they got funneled into killing fields of fire again when trying to breach the hedge rows. It was a killer. Walking the roads, seeing the actual remains of foxholes still there, I have no words. The average age of WWII soldiers was 26, so maybe this helped them “suck it up”, draw from within and drive on. They knew they would die, but someone had to.
I have no doubt about the will and intestinal fortitude of our soldiers today, I’ve seen what they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan if let along to do the jobs they are trained to do and not restrained by our political leaders who sit on their soft chairs thousands of miles away.
Sometimes I look at our systems and think we got it all wrong. Our leaders should be military and they should be right out in front leading the men into battle. War has gotten too far away. Yea we think it is something when a guy can sit behind a joy stick in the western U.S. and kill bad guys half away around the world. I wonder how politics would be if war was once again close up and personal? If our elected officials were also required to be out front – There would be no need of term limits for Congressmen then, most would pull out in a flash.
Anyway I want to salute all my Brother Grunts who led the charge across those flat sands into the certain death many received. As I walked the green grass dotted with white stone in the cemetery above the beaches I could only look and read names.
The table is set and I raise my glass – SALUTE!