It was my first thought upon awakening this morning...
"70 years ago at this very moment..."
Those first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" depicting the D Day landings?
The real thing was happening not that long ago, and for far longer than 20 minutes.
My Dad went ashore at Utah Beach on July 11, 1944, and I imagined he
saw the horrors of war until it was over. I didn't take him to see "Private Ryan"
at the theater because I had heard of some vets having heart attacks,
so I waited for it's release on VHS tape. I figured it would be less intense
on the small screen.
We rolled the tape one night after dinner...He made it through the D Day
scene OK...Further in, he asked me to stop the movie. He shared some
thoughts, and then gave the go ahead to resume. Not long after that, the
video started rolling....tracking problems...I tried to adjust the VCR, but
couldn't fix it. I will forever believe that it was Divine Intervention.
The next morning Marianne called me at work to tell me that Dad was
still in bed. It was after 9, and Dad always got up around 6. He
liked to get up and get going, even if gettin going only meant drinking
coffee and reading the paper.
When I got home after noon, I went upstairs and found him still in bed.
The movie had brought it all back to him. He shared things that I'm not
sure if he had shared with anyone else. He had kept it all bottled up for
over 50 years...Things he couldn't "un-see", "un-hear" or "un-feel".
I told him how proud we all were of him. How thankful we were of his service.
And that I loved him.
And that was that. We never spoke of it again. And he never finished the movie.
He didn't need to. He had been through it. At a time when "PTSD" and "TBI"
didn't "exist" , or was called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue"...
I believe that everyone who has survived combat returns home wounded.
Sometimes you just can't see the wounds.
To those Americans who stormed ashore that day and those who parachuted
behind enemy lines in the hours before the landings 70 years ago today....
To those Americans who have fought from Concord to Kandahar....
To say "Thank you" doesn't seem nearly enough.
I go back to "Saving Private Ryan" and Captain John Miller's
final whispered words... "Earn this..."
I hope that I live my life in such a manner.
I hope we all do...