Memories of D-Day

by John Gordon

As am getting along in years, I realize more and more the fact that who I am today is the sum of many years and experiences in my life. Six days from today, I will be 84 years old. That fact brings back many memories, some pleasant and some not so pleasant. I was born late in the Great Depression and spent most of my early growing up years during World War II. As a grammar school youngster, I remember the students in my school being herded into the auditorium at regular intervals to watch newsreel movies. We saw Hitler's rise to power, the early days of World War II, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, just to cite a few subjects shown. Our teachers would often discuss what we had seen when we returned to our classrooms. In those days, it seemed to us that everything in the world was rationed. I was a Sergeant in the "Junior Commandos," a program in the schools where you earned your stripes based on the weight of the "scrap iron" you collected and brought to the school to be weighed. I was also one of six youngsters, who had bicycles, called the "Jeep Patrol." We were to serve as runners in the event of a bombing or even an invasion, when all other means of communication were no longer available. There were the blackout drills and the barrel of sand to be used in case of and incendiary attack. I was completely immersed in wartime activities on the "home front."

In June of 1944, our family rented a house in Montreat, NC, together with my three living grandparents. The house had no electricity, which was typical for that time, so we were not regaled constantly with the sounds of the radio. We therefore went into Black Mountain daily to buy newspapers to keep abreast of the war. On one such trip, I remember standing beside my father in the railroad station in Black Mountain. There, we watched the offloading of several hundred wounded soldiers, victims of the battle at Anzio Beachhead. They were being offloaded for transport to Moore General Hospital at Swananoa, NC, a government facility exclusively for care of the wounded. It was an experience which I shall never forget. There seemed to be no end to the number of those wounded men. It is in the context of such experiences that I was confronted by a turning point in the war. On the 6th of June, the Allies stormed the coast of Normandy: D-Day. The events of D-Day were world shaking. Remembering those days, I shall never again take the life of luxury I live today for granted. The memory emphasizes for me forever that the cost of liberty is not free. The cost of the life I have been allowed to live these 84 years was in no small way paid by many thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen on the 6th of June, 1944, just two days before my eleventh birthday.

As veterans returned from the war, my father, who was too old to serve himself, hired several of them. I got to know them personally and am still familiar with their stories of combat. I also knew several who did not return from the war. Later, when I was in the Army, I had the honor to serve alongside both World War II veterans and veterans of the "forgotten war" in Korea. In our holiday fun culture, it is so easy for me to forget what happened that day 73 years ago. I hope that I will never allow myself to forget the enormous sacrifices that have made possible my life and that of my family and friends these many years. I thank the Lord daily for the great blessing of having been born at the moment in history I came into this world. The richness of my memories and who I am today has been possible by remembering the events of that period and the sacrifices made; sacrifices of which I have been and am still the beneficiary.

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