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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Meeting World War II Veterans

 Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a 70th Anniversary D-Day commemoration at the Port of Los Angeles, and met some of the remaining World War II veterans, all of whom are about ninety years old (one female vet was one hundred and four).  They were all in their late teens and early twenties then, but still, when asked, feel the loss of all of those friends and comrades they lost so many years ago.

Nine of the attending veterans received the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, for their service in restoring freedom to that country. Some could still stand as the French Consul General pinned the medal on their lapel, others received their award in their wheelchair. Unfortunately, this may have been one of the last opportunities to honor these veterans directly.

I'd shaken the hands of World War Two veterans in the past, but shaking their hands this time took on a special significance.

In a few years, they will have faded entirely into history. I'm grateful that I had this last chance to acknowledge the enormity of what they did so long ago. Today, we know that D-Day succeeded. I think we sometimes forget how uncertain the outcome had been. These veterans didn't know they would be returning home.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during the War, prepared this statement, to be issued in the event that D-Day had failed. It's a sober reminder of what have been.

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

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