As I pondered about the enormity of D-Day and the tremendous sacrifice of allied and United States fighting forces I felt a strong urge to attend an event, any event, to commemorate this historic offensive.
Some people referred to it as a crusade and, indeed, it was, as 4,000 sea-going vessels carried 66.000 men to land on the strongly-defended beaches of Utah and Omaha Beaches at Normandy to stop this monster Hitler, on June 6, 1944.
In addition to Americans, there were Allied forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Free France, England, Scotland and other countries. There was ample air support as the assault began. Some of the troops never made it to the shore as German artillery batteries pummeled the shoreline and took out boats and men. Some were killed shortly after arriving on shore and over 10,000 casualties were taken -- both fatalities and the seriously wounded within the first hour. The survivors braved land mines and machine gun fire as they continued their mission. Ultimately US and Allied forces prevailed and the war was begun in earnest.
Given the remarkable milestone of history I was dismayed to learn that there were no major events planned to honor these brave veterans. We all know that victory was achieved at no small cost and the world had much to rejoice about as Fascist plans were stopped.
I determined to create something of my own and began calling up various veterans that I knew but this was not an easy task as the ranks of the WWII veterans are a shrinking minority. Most of the vets that I called begged off saying that they were wheelchair-bound or had other health issues. Sad oh, so sad, but I did manage to contact three gentlemen who were willing to gather together and speak about their experiences.
Armando Villamor, Ernest Sanchez and Rudy Lopez and I met at the Five Points area in East Los Angeles at a well-known monument that has been dedicated to "The Americans of Mexican Descent". The monument is a proud legacy given that many heroes came from East Los Angeles and is dedicated to the brave men and women who served during World War Two.
We said a prayer for the brave warriors of World War Two and read some scripture before the men began to speak and share their wartime experiences.
Armando Villamor stated that he was in Jackson High School when the war began and he saw the effects immediately as all kinds of guys his age rushed to enlist. Rudy Lopez said that he served with the Navy in the South Pacific and later went Airborne when his hitch with the Navy was over. Ernest Sanchez spoke about his service with the Army's Fourth infantry Divisionat the Hurtgen Forest in Germany: I saw action and plenty of it which was really shocking to me who had never been in battle before and those memories haunt me to this very day, that is why I rarely talk about it.
The expected duration of those who were sent to the Hurtgen Forest was 90 days and I lasted over four months before I was seriously wounded. I have trench foot and a bunch of bad memories of the sights that I saw.
Our time at the monument lasted for twenty-five minutes and then we all went out to grab a bite to eat. As we reminisced about days past and discussed life in general I realized that I was sharing company with some very noble persons. I consider myself both honored and blessed.