I can’t look at the iconic photos of the D-Day landings without thinking of how young those men were. The average age of those who landed on the five beaches in Operation Overlord was 20. Twenty years old. Think of a twenty year-old you have known. That’s who they were.
We had the privilege of visiting Omaha Beach in June 2014. It was a beautiful bright, warm summer day. I stood there trying to imagine those men, barely more than boys, running up that beach straight into a virtual hail of machine gun fire. The first wave of soldiers on Omaha suffered 90% casualties. That means that 9 of 10 were unable to bear arms within seconds after they began their sprint towards liberating Europe. A haunting and humbling fact.
I had promised a friend that I would bring home some sand from Omaha Beach for his 90 year-old father in-law, who had landed there on D-day 70 years earlier and survived. I almost forgot, but I grabbed an empty Coke can and filled it halfway with sand. Later I sent it to my friend with the label “OMAHA BEACH JUNE 2014.” I had no idea what that small gesture would mean to his father in-law. My friend never sees me without thanking me.