Proud and humbled to be an American

One never knows when someone will make an appearance into your life and the words that are shared with you make you not only appreciate what that person has done, but also re-open your eyes to the price that has been paid for our freedom for over 200 years that we have been a nation.

Last Saturday, during the Alabama Press Association’s Annual Summer Convention luncheon, the guest speaker at the event was Morley Piper, former Executive Director of the New England Newspaper and Press Association. But he is also a D-Day veteran who survived the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Piper described the event almost in a moment-by-moment playback of what happened early on that morning.

“We, the Americans, were all young soldiers, most of us, in the war. Ordinary young men, mostly, ordinary because we had led ordinary lives before the war. Lives that had not been fully developed. We had just come through the steel grip of the Great Economic Depression in the United States, and now were called to service. We became conscripts in a civilian-based Army that was sent to France, to Normandy, to go up against a professional German Army waiting on the bluffs high above the beaches, June 6, 1944,” as shared by Piper.

“The Price of Freedom: I mentioned our casualties. Terrible. Terrible on the beach, terrible throughout Normandy, terrible throughout the war. The 29th Division was on the front line a long time. We had 14,000 soldiers in the division at full strength…. And we had 22,000 casualties. 150% casualties. More than anyone else in the war. Not a figure to point to with pride, but stark testimony to the rigors of long service on the front lines from the beaches of Normandy to the Elbe River in Northern Germany, when the war mercifully came to an end,” Piper continued to share the story.

As Piper shared the story in his own words it was easy to see the emotional scars that were still present as he paused and then moved on with the story. He spoke of watching the boat ahead of his land and the bombs and gunfire that erupted on them. He spoke of expecting to not live through his own boat’s landing on the beach.

Piper also shared that many WWII veterans were not willing to share their experiences for many years after the war. However, with their numbers dwindling daily, he mentioned that the stories needed to be shared and to be told to Americans today.

As he finished his talk, I do believe there were very few dry eyes in the audience. One could not help the emotions that welled up inside as you listened to his sharing of what happened that morning so many years ago. Most of us today cannot imagine going through what these young men were going through. Piper himself was only 19-years-old at the time.

Hitting closer to home, my wife’s uncle lost his life in WWII as well, at the age of 20. When I saw Mr. Piper standing at the podium, I thought Hal Roberts would be the same age as the man who was sharing his story.

I think many times a feeling of guilt might have been felt by the survivors of WWII, guilt over coming home to their families while so many of their brothers in arms paid the ultimate price.

Just as the attendees to this luncheon gave Morely Piper a standing ovation, please join me in remembering all of those who gave their lives for our freedom, honoring those who served protecting our freedom and praying for those who are still in harm’s way protecting our freedom even today.

God Bless America!

 

 

Randy Garrison is the president and publisher of the Hartselle

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