Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Boy, a Beach and a Flag

Yesterday I posted an article and photographs about a 2013 tribute to the Normandy fallen. Over 9,000 military personnel gave their lives in that invasion.

Whilst looking into that tribute, I came across a story about another tribute, this one by a young boy, also to those who gave their young lives on the beaches far from home.

My initial reaction was a skeptical cynicism and a feeling of disdain for a precocious young child. It then occurred to me that we have become more cynical about sincerity, about displays of emotion. It reminded me of the quote by General Omar Bradley, who was in charge of the development of the atomic bomb during WW2:
We live in a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants, in a world that has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We have solved the mystery of the atom and forgotten the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about dying than we know about living.
The story of the young boy’s tribute has been posted on Youtube by his father and can be viewed at:

The father tends to be somewhat melodramatic in parts and I have omitted the comments at the end, including the apology for the young lad not standing at attention during his salute, a necessity due to the strength of the wind and the force of the snapping flag.

Here is the text of that story and pics from the video:

In June 2014 my 11 year old son and I went to Normandy, France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

As part of his personal remembrance project called “Project Vigil”, my son spent four days in the Arlington Cemetery, teaching visitors about three paratroopers buried there.

On D-Day, June 6th, the local police wouldn’t let him enter the cemetery, so he took his 48 star WW11 era American flag down to Omaha Beach and planted his homemade flag pole firmly in the sand. All he wanted to do was say thank you to the young Americans who fought and died on that beach exactly 70 years earlier.

Together we unfurled the flag into the wind, where it whipped and snapped with such force that he strained to hold it steady.

When he turned his gaze to the English Channel, He saw a vision of the spirits of our infantry soldiers heading for the shores on D-Day morning. He was so moved by this vision, he raised his hand to salute them. And for a moment, he was just a little boy with a flag standing alone on a beach in Normandy.

He held the flag and his salute for an hour and a half.

As he stood there saluting, he hummed the old songs his heroes would have loved. While he hummed Glenn Miller’s “American Patrol”, he thought of the young infantrymen who held that cheerful song so dearly in their hearts, as they lived the final moments of their lives. And as he imagined their lives ending in violent, horrible deaths upon the same sand of “Bloody Omaha” as he stood, he began to cry. He briefly broke his salute to wipe those tears away.

After a while, people began to come down to the water to see the saluting boy.

Children approached to see if he was real. Some teased him to try to break his concentration; others wanted to have their picture taken with him.

Then came the TV News. But he didn’t smile. His eyes remained fixed on the image of the spirits of our soldiers coming ashore.

When the tide crept in, he refused to retreat a single step.

Members of our Armed Forces encouraged him.

Our veterans saluted him.

And then a lone trumpeter joined him in his vigil.

After an hour had passed, his knees began to weaken and the muscles in his arms and hands began to cramp, but he didn’t want to leave the beach. He stayed strong . . .for them, and for their memory.

Then came the moment when he raised his right hand, a signal to me that he was ready to say goodbye. I took the flag and he collapsed in my arms. As I held him I was struck by a deep sadness for all the mothers and fathers who never had the chance to comfort their sons in June 1944.

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