The formation of ten wheelchairs lined the jet bridge as we disembarked in Dallas after the flight from Paris. After ten hours folded into an economy seat, I no longer felt the need to complain about my minor aches and fatigue upon seeing that reminder.
For each chair in that lineup represented a man who had survived D’Embarquement–D-Day–and the ensuing 70 years. Each one had made the journey to France for the 70th anniversary of the invasion, and each was flying back home on American Airlines Flight 49 that day.
They went to close a chapter, to seek recompense, to reunite with friends [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10881513/Pensioner-who-hid-medals-and-absconded-from-care-home-found-at-D-Day-celebrations-in-France.html], and above all, to honor the memory of brothers who ran up those beaches never to leave.
It was gratifying to see these men, now outwardly so fragile in many cases, admired for the strength they still held inside, and their commitment to cause and country decades ago. But just as old photographs make clear, it’s incorrect to think of those actions and choices in black and white. Instead, they come back as memories properly layered in shades of grey. We saw evidence of this throughout the week in Normandy. And it was easy to read in the faces of these men as they travelled back to the United States.
The last time most of the vets walked the streets of towns like Sainte Mere Eglise and Sainte Marie du Mont, they walked past bombed out buildings, and the rubble of the homes of families just like theirs back home. What a jolt it must have been to see those streets again, now full of waving flags and cheering faces. It brings color back to those memories to know we too survived, as free countries, and friends.
We gave our heroes a healthy round of applause as we arrived at the gate; it seemed so little compared to the sacrifice, but the least we could do. It made my heart glad to see the kind treatment continue from the airline’s team as these gentlemen came off the airplane and made their way through immigration and customs with expedited care. May blessings follow these heroes on their journey home.
from June 10, 2014