Today is the 6th June 2019 and the world is remembering D-Day. Watching the memorial service on TV makes me thankful that thousands of men sacrificed and lost their lives to invade the beaches of Europe and to fight for freedom. The beaches of Normandy code-named Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Juno Beach and Gold Beach were stormed by British, Canadian and American soldiers. Ordinary and brave men that walked into a hail of enemy fire that no movie will ever truly depict. Films like ‘The Longest day’ (1962) and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) have done their best to give us an insight into that day. I honestly can’t imagine young men today doing their bit. The closest they and I have come to this might be playing ‘Medal of Honor’ on the PC years ago. I died very quickly but unlike those brave men they didn’t get another go by pressing the reset button. Instead another man had to push on with the battle while watching their friends die around them. Truly horrific.
It’s 75 years since that day and this will certainly be the last time the veterans will be attending any commemoration. The 60th anniversary was widely considered the last time but these men just keep living and remembering. It fills me with pride to still be able to hear their stories and experiences in their own words. Having grown up talking to family members and veterans especially around Poppy Day. I’d always take time to hear about their experiences and understand why their sacrifice was needed. Some didn’t want to talk about it as the images and memories were so awful that remembering still hurt them. They did have one thing in common. They all considered themselves to be the lucky ones, they got to come home.
Today I was watching and listening to a man called Alf Hicks talk about filming the landing for the news and for history. At 19 years old and armed with just a revolver which he couldn’t use as he was holding and pointing his camera. He captured some rare and stark images of that day, so we can now and forever get some understanding of that time. I can’t say I’m much of a fighter but I’d have chosen that role for myself if I had to do so. Recording the images for all time in a hope that future generations understand the sacrifice given and to avoid having to do anything like ever that again. Just as important in my eyes than any gun.
It make me feel sad that the few veterans that are now in their 90’s and won’t be around much longer to tell their stories and more significantly for us to say to them, Thank You.