Sharing D-Day lessons with Charlotte

Published 11:25 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

After interviewing an 89-year-old D-Day veteran last week, I filed my story for the next day’s 70th anniversary of the pivotal World War II campaign and drove home.

I arrived just in time for my wife to pass me our 10-month-old daughter before she set off for work.

Charlotte and I sat down on the sofa and turned the cable on. She started climbing over me and pulling my hair; it’s our 10- or 15-minute afternoon ritual.

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I have no idea what program was flickering across the screen.

For the first time since sitting down with Robert J. “Jack” Ewald for about an hour and a half, just how much of a privilege that was, and the enormity of what he and others did during D-Day, dawned upon me in some kind of completeness.

It was my wife handing me the next generation to inherit the Earth that did it, joining an important couple of dots.

Landing on the Normandy beaches at dawn all those years ago, Ewald and the 159,999-odd others didn’t know whether they’d see the end of the campaign. About one in every 18 didn’t.

And it would have been a terrible, lonely way to go, dying in a foreign, hostile land, on a bloody beach or alongside a hedgerow, torn apart by a Nazi mortar round or sniper’s bullet.

With the changing nature of war, many commentators have said the world will never see another campaign like D-Day. It was do-or-die for these men and for the Allied nations they fought for.

We know how absolutely demented the Third Reich was — the nearly completed extermination of European Jews, human-skin lampshades, dehumanizing the populace in the pursuit of world domination by one crazed individual.

If it weren’t for men like Ewald — who knew there was a good chance they would die in their late teens or early 20s, but also knew their lives were less important than the continuation of the way of life they knew, and we today essentially still know — Charlotte wouldn’t be here, and neither would you nor I.

Bumper stickers are wont to proclaim otherwise, but we humans are responsible for the fate of the world, save a large-scale meteorite collision or some similar phenomenon.

The new generations that will inherit the earth — and through their actions be responsible for it — necessarily need to learn from those that went before them, that fought for and won their existence.