My Pop was the smartest man I ever met. Almost illiterate [born here, he grew up in Portugal, then came back], and poorly educated, but SMART. And like many of the greatest generation, Pop wound up in the Army. But he did so in 1940, because although he was a patriot [years later he thought "America! Love it or leave it!" gave slackers too much choice], he also needed a job.
And four years later, on a June morning, my Dad, a combat engineer with the 4th ID went ashore at a place designated Utah Beach [actually they landed a mile or more from where they were supposed to, and where Germans waited for them]. And from there he went to St. Mere Eglese, Cherbourg, eventually St. Lo, and on to Paris, the Huertgen Forest, the Rhine and Bavaria.
But it was always D-Day he remembered most. Like most vets, his war stories were about the funny things, not the horrors, and his D-Day remembrances were laced with as much comedy as he could come up with. But this humble man grasped he had done [along with thousands of others], something stupendous, and of historical import. And he never forgot it. The only book he read, cover to cover, was "Crusade in Europe". The 4th Infantry Division was HIS. And when they hit a rough patch at one point in Viet Nam [my war], Pop took it as a personal insult.
Pop passed in 2001, but the lessons he taught me by word, deed and example are with me still. So today, some 70 years after he waded ashore on the Normandy coast, I think of my Pop- and all the Dads, sons and brothers who waded with them. We may never see their like again. And we should remember them - and what they did.