I found myself feeling more emotional than I expected when I walked alongside the staging area for the D-Day parade, especially when I saw a military truck carrying veterans from the 101st Airborne. The date was June 6, 2000, opening day for what was then known as the National D-Day museum.
Those gentle-looking old men on the truck were the ones who, in the first stages of the invasion, parachuted behind enemy lines to secure bridges and roads. It was one of the deadliest assignments of the invasion. Fifty-six years earlier the men of the 101st sat and waited for the invasion to begin. This day they were back in an Army vehicle sitting and waiting for a parade to begin. One old soldier stood to stretch and revealed a stump of a right leg. On one arm was the tattoo of a parachute. Another man rested his artificial leg in the sun. Others seemed fit; all had stories to tell.
Then there was the truck carrying veterans of the 2nd Armored Division. Known as "Hell on Wheels," the division that rumbled from Normandy through France toward decisive battles at the Bulge.
Some Jeeps carried Congressional Medal of Honor winners. A van delivered each of these men to their vehicle. A few never achieved rank higher than private, but as each elderly man climbed out of the van, the military officials attending them snapped to a salute.
Faces were fascinating. There were some old tired faces on the trucks, and some faces not so old, belonging to men who obviously went to war practically as children.
Then there were the faces of the current military. They were all young faces, just like the nervous faces of war 56 year earlier
Sometimes history makes dramatic demands of certain generations. On that day the nation was at peace. Fifteen months later, on September 11, 2001, the world would change. Once more there would be enemy lines, and nervous young soldier having to breech them.
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