Quiet Heroes, all
I’ve been to the shores of Omaha beach in Normandy. It’s a serene, quiet place where the waves of the Channel lap against the sand. The rocky hills slope gently there and are covered with green grass. In June, it’s an idyllic spot — far away from the bustle of Paris. The coast is cool and refreshing compared to the rest of France.
I’ve been to Caen. It’s grown in size but it’s still a quiet, rustic village in Normandy. The homes have small, rocky walls encircling the gardens that are every Frenchwoman’s pride. Children run up and down the sidewalks. People go to and fro on their errands, carrying bags or dragging caddies in their wake.
I’ve been to Paris. It’s a gem of a city filled with architecture that spans the eras from the Pax Romana to the neo-modern. I’ve walked the bridge from the Eiffel Tower, over the Seine. I’ve visited Notre Dame de Paris — I was married in Notre Dame de Champs just a brisk walk away. I’ve seen the Tullieries and the Jardin du Luxembourg. I used to read over by the Fountaine de Medicis next to the Sénat and feed the ducks and fish that make that fountain their home.
I’ve lived in France. It’s a beautiful country filled with wonderful people. Some of my best friends are still there and, though I’ve returned to my native land, part of me will always be in France. But, my ten years in France were made possible by my grandfather’s trip there back in 1944. He came across the Channel in the afternoon, when the worst of the fighting was over. He was part of the Big Red One and would be with them as they pushed to liberate Paris and then on to Berlin. My grandfather never really talked about his time in the Army and, to be honest, I never really asked him about it. He passed away when I was 10 years old so the subject never really came up. But he and countless other men stormed those beaches that I saw. The white sand and green grass must have been covered with blood and gore from the earlier waves of attacks. The ground was probably chewed up and muddy from the fighting. I doubt that my grandfather ever saw the beautiful country that his fighting made possible — once the war was over, he returned to his life back in the US. Just like the countless other soldiers, he set aside the nightmares he must have seen, went back to work, raised his children, and lived his life.
We call them the “Greatest Generation” not just because of the war they fought — we call them great because, once that war was over, they returned home, took off their Army uniforms, and went back to work.
Quiet heroes, all.
— G.K. Masterson