June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the day on which the Allied forces of World War II invaded the French beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Today the BL News would like to pay our proper respects to some of our greatest American heroes.
While many of us may not have any military experience, we are all not only capable of imagining the tremendous personal sacrifice involved but also of acknowledging the enormous debt of gratitude that we all owe to those who have served our country, kept us from harm’s way, and allowed us the freedom we all know and cherish. In America, they are still respectfully referred to as the Greatest Generation, hardened adolescents of grit, virtue, and the Great Depression who came of age eating combat for breakfast victorious in restraining the forces of evil.
With the anticipation of sunrise on June 6, 1944, young men wrestled with fear on the verge of the great battle. Chaplains urged young men to say a prayer, get ready, and give it all ya got. Vincent Corsini, World War II veteran, 116TH Infantry Regiment climbed down the ropes to board a Higgins boat bound for Omaha Beach and he remembered saying, “The chaplains were urging us to say some prayers … All I had was 14 weeks of basic training and I was shoved in the cauldron, a gladiator’s arena, 19 years old … I wouldn’t exchange my experience for a million dollars. But I wouldn’t go through it again for a million dollars.”
In the skies above Normandy, Eugene Deibler, World War II veteran, 101st Airborne Division checked his parachute waiting for the signal to jump and he remembered saying, “If you weren’t scared, something was wrong with you because hell, you’re just a kid.”
Steve Milnikoff, World War II veteran, 175th Infantry Regiment arrived on the beaches of Normandy the next day and he remembered saying, “A memory that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life as I went down. I looked toward the side and I could see my Lieutenant Fields, he’s been hit by the same automatic fire standing there and just taking all these hits. When the machine gun stopped firing, he just hit the ground, he was gone … They gave their lives so we can have what we have and I know that someone took the bullet for me … We had more than 80 percent casualties in 11 days at combat. That is what happens in war.”
While these men thank God they made it home, thousands of their fellow soldiers did not and their bodies still rest under white crosses in Normandy. From all of us at the BL to all of those who have ever served in the US military “thanks for serving, we know that freedom is not free.”
Includes reporting from The Associated Press.