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From the Archives: 2004 D-Day Celebrations in Normandy, France
Today, on the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion I remembered that I was in Normandy eight years ago for the 60th anniversary in 2004 on a tour of France in a Jeep Liberty for Truck Trend magazine. 160,000 Allied soldiers hit the beaches that day.
What struck me today is that in 2004, most of the veterans who returned to Normandy were in their eighties. How many will return in 2014 to celebrate what most probably think was the defining day of their lives?
I think that the last photos in this album are especially significant as they are the British paratroopers who returned to Pegasus Bridge. Personally, I think it takes a special brand of courage to jump out of an airplane, into the darkness, on to a continent held by the enemy. These men, who were teenagers then, and are in their eighties and in some instances their nineties, are a special breed. In taking the photos and listening to these veterans of D-Day talk, I was in absolute awe of their accomplishments on 6 June 1944.
The first two photos in the album, while not automotive, are also significant as they mark the graves of two soldiers, one American, one German, each who fell 68 years ago.
The place I stayed on this and on three previous visits to Normandy (the first visit was in the days immediately following the September 11 attacks) was the Chateau Vouilly (photo four) not far from St. Mere Eglise. What's noteworthy, and a great reason to stay there, is breakfast is served in the room where US journalists Ernie Pyle, Robert Capa, Andy Rooney, and Ernest Hemmingway filed their dispatches in the weeks immediately following the invasion in June and July, 1944. Chateau Vouilly is not far from the invasion beaches, Caen, St. Lo, and the nearby American and German cemeteries.
Of all the trips I've taken over the years, this one remains the most meaningful, especially given that less than 30 minutes after taking the photo in the German Cemetery in Normandy, I was hit by a car and came very close to being killed.
Over the years I reflected on this many times, realizing that life is truly precious and that one should live every day as it it might be your last. Those are the words I live by.