‘Without Thinking’

Allied Troops on D-Day

69 years ago today, D-Day.
Years ago, while working at channel 2 in Nashville, I had to work on Memorial Day. Being a Monday, not a lot was going on, so I remembered that the National Cemetery in Madison always had some type of ceremony honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Did the live reports for the morning show and I decided to stick around and do a story on the event that was to be held later that day. As I was driving around the cemetery, I noticed this guy pull up on his Harley, pony tail, big guy, tattoos, etc. He pulled to a certain spot, got off the bike and walked up to a grave.
I was curious. I wanted to know why he was there. Something inside told me this would be special. I told the cameraman I was with what I was going to do and without hesitation, he added, ‘let’s do it.’
We waited a few minutes and then I walked up, alone, to the grave. He was standing there, in tears. (Yes, I was quite nervous at this point but something told me to talk to him.)
“Excuse me sir.’
‘Yes?’ He replied while crying.
‘May I ask who this is you are here seeing?’
‘The greatest man to ever live. My dad.’
‘Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about him?’
He pauses. I am thinking, oh damn, what have you done Joe?
‘I would love to talk about my Dad. He made me the man I am. Loved me through all of my bullshit. Loved me through all of my great days. I disappointed him more than once. He hugged me harder each time……..’
We talked for another 15 minutes, at least. I say talked, he did, I listened. His father was involved in D-Day. He said, ‘I often wondered what was going through all of their minds as they got ready to storm the beach. I am not sure I could have done it. Dad said I would have. Dad said I would have done it without thinking. And what if he had died? I wouldn’t be here.’ He paused, and then added.
‘You know, if they didn’t storm the beach. Chances are, none of us would be here right now.’
We did a quick interview with him and he walked away and got on his bike. He started it up and as quickly as he did, turned it off. He motioned me to come over.
‘I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for asking about my pop.’ Started the bike up and drove away.
We interviewed others that day. None that were involved in D-Day, but it didn’t matter.
All heroes.
(This is the part of Saving Private Ryan that always gets me.)


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