My mother graduated from high school in 1945 in Jacksonville, FL. She watched classmates that were a few years ahead of her be drafted and quickly head of for overseas military duty during WWII. Many of those young men did not come home… I wish now that I had pressed her for more details regarding her high school experiences, but the one story did share still stands out.
She told me about a cousin, who was a few years older than her, coming home on military leave. She was 16 years old at the time. It was the late spring of 1944. I have no clue how he managed to secure a stateside leave at such a crucial time in the war, but he did… Apparently he knew that the invasion of Europe was imminent and that he would be a part of the forces that would complete that historical effort.
My mother told me that she knew that there her beloved cousin was going to be in harm’s way upon his return to Europe. She was correct. He was killed during the D-Day invasion that was carried out 67 years ago today. Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in a surprise attack during a period of awful weather that day.
I wish now that I had pressed my mother for additional details. At the time she told me this story, it was beyond my comprehension to think of my mother as ever being 16 years old! It never occurred to me to ask her what that was like for her. What was it like to be 16 years old and lose an older cousin, whom she was so enamored by? I do know that it made enough of an impression for her to share the experience with me when I was a college student taking American History.
Today we remember those that served in the D-Day Invasion on June 6th, 1944. And perhaps we are reminded to press our loved ones for more details about their life stories. If we fail to do that we maybe missing out on historical information that could transform the way that we view our loved ones.