Much love and respect goes out to those who served 70 years ago yesterday in the invasion of Normandy and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Michael Dozier, a veteran and member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network:
Imagine being on a ship whose walls do not allow you to see over them. It slowly creeps toward land. The closer you get, the louder the thunder gets.
But it’s not thunder. It is rifle fire and mortar explosions engulfing the place you’re about to occupy. You are 19-years-old and your commanding officer is 22.
You’re afraid because you see the smoke rising above your boat. You hear the screams of your fellow soldiers who are laying dying on shore.
You look around at your fellow squad members and watch as they clutch their rifles in one hand and crosses in the other.
You look into their eyes and see the fear that is aggressively overcoming you as well. You pray as your boat wheels touch solid ground. The dreaded time has come.
You pray for courage. You want another minute, but you know that your battle buddy depends on you as much as you do on him. Your squad depends on you all to do your job.
Your commanding officer yells out orders, but you can’t hear them. Your other senses have taken over, and you smell the death that surrounds you. You hear the agony of the wounded, and you taste the sulfur in the air.
It is time.
You think of home. You remember your high school graduation, your first kiss. You see your mother’s face smiling in the bright sunlight. You remember how proud your dad was when you told him you would be serving your country.
The time has come.
You hear the creaking of the sprockets that will lower the landing platform. Overhead, you see rounds of gunfire zip by. You close your eyes and hope that, when you open them, you will be sitting at home eating a piece of your grandmother’s homemade apple pie. As you open your eyes, reality sets in.
You are out of time.
The boat rocks as the ramp is lowered. Sweat invades your eye sockets – or are those tears that have involuntarily presented themselves. The ramp opens. Instinctively, you charge forward.
Your time is now.
It is June 6, 1944. You are on the shores of Normandy. This is World War II, and you are a 19-year-old United States soldier who is ready to sacrifice your life for your country.
You are a true hero.
God bless our soldiers and God bless the United States of America.