Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2000

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / August 5, 2000

Last Sunday was a special event in my life, because it afforded me the opportunity to reflect upon the hard-won liberty granted to Americans through the efforts of that “finest generation” who endured World War II, both in the military and on the home front.

The occasion was a visit to the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, which opened not long ago. I went with my wife, her parents and myfather.

My father-in-law is not a veteran. At the time of the Korean conflict, hewas denied military service because of flat feet. However, he hasmaintained a strong interest in military history over the years. Sundaywas his birthday and, as part of his “present,” my father was along. Heserved in North Africa and Europe during World War II and provided a walking history book for my father-in-law as we all viewed the exhibits.

The exhibit begins with a view of American life during the Depression and the growing storm clouds on the world political scene, as Japan and Germany steered the world toward war. Efforts were made to head it off,but it soon became inevitable.

For a few years now, I’ve been interviewing my dad on his memories of the war, picking through his experiences and putting together a narrative which may enlighten people as to the war, seen by the common foot- soldier.

Therefore, it was fascinating for me to watch his eyes as my dad relived memories from 60 years ago, when ordinary citizens were plucked from cities, towns and farms, organized and trained for battle and hurled against Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

The exhibit gave a thrilling inside view of how D-Day was organized and carried out.

Although he wasn’t in the D-Day invasion, Dad was active in combat in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.

And when it got to the point of the Allies liberating the Nazi death camps, it recalled for him his own horror at seeing Dachau firsthand, and staring pure evil in the face.

Afterward, Dad said he was glad to see the museum with my father-in- law, and added it was good to hear appreciation expressed for what the combat soldiers did for their country, as that’s too often unheard.

So, if you get the chance, hug a veteran today – and tomorrow. Theysacrificed to give us these days.

LEONARD GRAY is a reporter for L’Observateur.

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