They remember the noise and the gunfire and the grenades and the blood. They remember the landing on Omaha Beach that June 6 of 1944 as if it were yesterday. They remember the cries of the fallen, the horrible sights of thousands of men wounded, maimed, dying.
It was D-Day, Normandy, World War II. A day of infamy, a day when bravery took the test and passed. The end of World War II wouldnt be that far away, but for those on that beach, it seemed forever. Or like there might not be a forever, for them at least.
Now, as the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaches, a group is trying to find Triangle veterans, and those who could accompany them, to put together a June 5 trip to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Bedford is believed to be the town that had the highest per-capita loss on D-Day of any place in the United States.
Most World War II vets have never seen the memorial, which opened in 2001. But all deserve to see it, and the group, reachable on the website www.operationomaha.org or at 919-228-8364, hopes to find as many Triangle WWII vets as it can to go on the journey. Those who wish to contribute veterans wont have to pay can go to the website or call.
Those who today live in freedom here and elsewhere should carry WWII veterans to the memorial on their shoulders if need be. Many who study the war in school, or have never talked to a veteran, dont appreciate the fact that Americas freedom was in real jeopardy. And this was a war fought with traditional weapons, on the ground and in the air, over four years.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, fewer than 1.7 million are alive, and most of them are in their late 80s or 90s. They will never forget what they experienced, and the nation must never forget what they experienced.
This trip is the least we can do for them.