I mentioned in an earlier post the main purpose of our holiday in Europe. It was to attend the 70th D-Day Anniversary in Normandy with my Father-in-Law. Gregg's Dad is a WWII Navy Veteran and on D-Day he was serving in USS Corry (DD 463) sunk off Utah Beach on the morning of D-Day. Like so many of the experiences we hear from our parents and grandparents, it was a harrowing and horrifying tale. This story has been very much part of our family history, told and retold over the years, often something new being added that has not been heard before.
Several months ago Gully was contacted by the NBC television channel, and asked if he would take part in a program to be televised on June 6th. A very nice producer from the NBC Nightly News Show with Brian Williams contacted him and asked if he would be part of that special, as they had also learned that he and several members of our family would soon be on a plane heading for Normandy. Gully agreed and so began a very interesting time for him and for all of our family. There was a trip up to New York for an interview with Brian Williams, a film crew was sent to his home a couple of weeks later, lots of interviews ensued from not only NBC but local newspapers and also from his hometown in North Dakota. The people we met, the stories they told, the history we learned, the places we saw, all made for an incredibly amazing time while we were in France. Most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a blessing for our family and the friends who came with us.
The day before the 70th D-Day Anniversary we had to head for the seaside town of Barfleur, where a French Coast Guard Rescue Boat took Gully and our other Corry Vet Tom out to where their ship was sunk. The NBC crew and a local newspaper team went along with them. Gregg, our son and nephew, Tom's daughter were also on the boat, along with the son of another of our Veteran family whose Dad passed away several years before.
The rest of us watched from shore as the small boat made its way out of the harbor, their destination being where Corry was sunk and 24 shipmates were lost. Tom and his daughter gently threw a red rose onto the water as Gully read the name of each shipmate. The son whose father had passed, scattered his father's ashes, so that his Dad "could be with his shipmates again," he said.
Gully has laid flowers at this sacred spot for three of those anniversaries, at the 50th, 60th and now the 70th. It is very important to him to remember and pay his respects to the shipmates/friends lost. Each year for as long as there were shipmate reunions, 40 as of last year, they have been remembered at an annual candle lighting ceremony. Each year a candle was lit for each lost shipmate. This year a red rose was placed onto the water. It was very important for him to do this one last time, as realistically he says he doubts he will be coming to the 80th Anniversary, but Gregg and I are betting on him. Emotions ran high. There were many tears shed throughout our time in Normandy, from young and old. It brought us all even closer.
And so here are the photos taken by husband and son. I have permission from my Father-in-law to share, and everyone you see has now been on world wide television, so I think no one will mind if I share them on my blog for a little while at least.
They are now back on shore and a few more words are spoken.....
When they realized D-Day Veterans had just gotten off the boat, they wanted to shake their hands, to thank them......
This is a photo of the producer who got in touch with Gully originally, an amazing lady. She is talking with Celia. Celia and Gully have been married seven years now. There is another story I want to tell but that will be in another post and it takes place in Norway. We will be in France for several more posts, then we go to England and then onto Norway.
It was time to call it a day....
and also for these good people to get everything they filmed back to the States, because the D-Day special was shown the next day. In the short time we got to know them we saw only warm, friendly people who cared for those they were interviewing and filming. They treated Gully and Tom, and I am sure the Army Vets and their families they interviewed for the D-Day Special, with the greatest caring and respect, making sure in every way that they were being well taken care of, every need being met. They have our never-ending respect.
And they did an amazing job on that special, which you can watch here.