November 11, 2012

Letter: ‘Selfless acts of bravery’

— This summer I took a trip with some friends. It was two of the most humbling weeks of my life.

We visited World War II battlefields in Western Europe. There is nothing like standing on Omaha Beach or walking through the cemetery. I’ve read so much and watched so many documentaries that I could see the faces of the men of 29th Infantry Division and the 1st Infantry Division. I stood on Pointe Du Hac, where the 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the cliffs. You can park a bus in those bomb craters.

I stood in the landing zones of the 101st Airborne Division and witnessed those hedgerows. I met the people of St. Mere Eglise who adore the paratroopers for giving them back their freedom. I can’t imagine what those boys went through on the “Day of Days.”

I had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful Dutch people who were kids when the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions landed in their farms in September 1944. They still shed tears of joy for those American soldiers who drove the Nazis out and liberated their homes. I saw statues and monuments dedicated to one company or just one soldier for their selfless acts of bravery. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

I walked through the Ardenne Forest and stood in what’s left of the foxholes. Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge must have been awful. The shellings those boys took are unforgettable. The remnants are still in those forests. I visited three American cemeteries, a concentration camp and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and much, much more.

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, Veterans Day will never be the same for me. So thank you to all the veterans out there. You deserve much more.

J.T. Finley