Normandy is where my Grandpa flew gliders in WWII. For those of you that don't know, the gliders were an integral part of D-Day and many believe without that force, we wouldn't have been able to overtake the Germans. It was a small effort in numbers. According to Gliders of Neptune by Charles J. Masters, there were 517 gliders with 2900 men and many, many pounds of machinery and weapons flown into the St. Mere Elglise area of Normandy on June 6, 1944. I found numbers of all kinds so I'll estimate there were millions of soldiers involved in WWII and about 100,000-150,000 that marched, flew or sailed on D-Day. You do the math and tell me I shouldn't be proud that my grandfather flew one of those gliders in the 101st Airborne Division?
As UW started telling the story of his experience, I knew I wanted that feeling. I knew I wanted to understand a piece of history that my Grandpa was part of. There was a Dutch woman sitting next to him on the beach and she turned and said, "I know why you're here." UW responded, "Why?" She sat with her partner and spoke in their native tongue for a few minutes, turned back and said, "Your father fought in the war. If it weren't for your father, we'd be speaking German right now. What's his name?" UW replied with his name and they all toasted to Victor Norvell on the beach for his work for the world. We all cried when we heard this and UW said he got cold chills time again on his WWII portion of the trip. There were various people that cheered my Grandpa because there are people in Normandy that remember the horrific details of that war.
My Grandpa died in his 60's, when I was in elementary school, so unfortunately I didn't get a chance to know his as an adult. This march back in time however, has given me the chance. The chance to understand what true patriotism is and was. The chance to gather information about our last real war, a war that wasn't politically driven. The chance to appreciate and respect the solider apart from my political viewpoint. The chance to get back to my roots and acknowledge a simpler place and time. It's made me think about how I will strive to carry on the ways my family has lived off the land, holding onto family values and a strong work ethic. I wish my Grandpa was around to tell me his stories but he's not. You know who is? My grandmother and her sons. Lots of other people's grandparents, uncles and aunts. Learn what your family when through in order for you to be so free. It wasn't just about being a soldier. It was about being a farmer, a factory worker, a mother and a community. The entire nation was involved with the war effort. How can we get involved for our liberty? Our freedom?
This is the first Memorial Day that I've had these feelings. I'm 34 years old. When do we teach our children where they came from and what America used to be? Are we reminding them that Memorial Day isn't just about BBQ or beaches? What was America founded on and what did it used to mean to be American? I don't think these ways are completely lost but I do believe their slipping through the cracks. I know for sure family values and strong work ethics are! My nephews eighth birthday is June 9th and he's have an Army party. His dad was an Army Ranger and is helping my nephew understand that Army isn't just GI Joe. I'm proud for this and hope we can all explain to kids the importance of history and a simpler place and time.
Victor Norvell hunting in the South Texas brush in the 1980's.