Today is the 76th anniversary…

of D Day, when 155,000 brave young Americans joined British and Canadian brothers to free France from occupation by Hitler’s forces.
12,000 German soldiers faced them, having occupied the strategic bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach.
The Germans, prepared for D Day over 3 years. During that time, they prepared for this deadly day. Many challenges faced the Americans and their brothers in arms.
Firing almost continuously from fortified bluff positions, using tank guns, “zipper machine guns, able to fire 25 bullets per second, and thousands of mined obstacles embedded in the sand of Omaha Beach, clearly, the Germans held the strategic advantage.
Beaches along the Normandy coast, were covered with hundreds of large concrete obstacles, piles, iron boxes, large metal tri-pods, and thousands of miles of razer sharp, concertina wire strung all along the beach.
Mines were everywhere. Together, they presented a formidable obstacle of death and destruction, for the young men to overcome.
Higgins boats, shown in the first picture, brought the young men from landing ships in the English Channel to Omaha Beach.
A Higgins boat carried 35 men, each with a rifle, 70 pounds of ammunition, supplies, gear and a poncho. Many of the Higgins Boats, never made it through the obstacles to Omaha Beach. Hitler called these obstacles, his “Great Atlantic Wall”. Many young men drowned in the waters off Omaha Beach.
For the Higgins boats that made it to Omaha Beach and dropped the front ramp, a blistering stream of German bullets greeted them. ‘
Sixteen of those young heroes, hailing from Bedford, VA, never got a shot off. Many were killed on the beach, some of them cut in half by never ending machine gun fire and explosions of mines embedded in the beach. This was the largest, per capita loss for any small town in America. In 1944, Bedford had a population of 3200, and today, about 6,000. Four more “Bedford Boys” died a few hours later.
One of the stories in my second book, “Angles on the Battlefield, is entitled “Approaching Omaha Beach”. Told through the eyes and words of Marvin Young, of Roanoke, VA, who followed the Bedford brothers onto Omaha Beach.
“Angles” will publish in the fall of ’20, and contain 38 stories.
We will follow this post with a video post next week, describing some of the challenges Marvin and other brothers faced on Omaha Beach and days later. Till next time—-

Jerry Barnes, Author, “Combat Survivor Stories”

Credit to the Denver Post for the photos used here.

 

When I set out…

to bring each combat veteran story to the published page, I did so with these humble goals: 

—Describe the realistic combat veteran experience with realism, compassion, and care.

—Never overdramatize combat. Write realistically.

— Bring healing to the veteran and their families, as they see their (or their loved ones) experience expressed in the written word.

—Donate proceeds from book sales to worthy veteran causes that help veterans heal from scars of war, such as New Freedom Farm, which uses “rescue horses, bound for the slaughterhouse, to rescue veterans with PTSD”.

Jerry Barnes, Author of When Heaven Visits

 

When the US…

moved from the draft to an all-volunteer force, there was some fear and reservation. Wise advisors stated we will be able to fill all our needs through volunteers. Time has proven them absolutely correct.

There was no need to fret. Despite any misgivings, the military services are all filling their ranks with the cream of the crop and now have waiting lists for even most combat ranks. Why my Marine friends have transformed the idea of volunteering into a powerful motivation by implying “who will step up next and be allowed to enter the elite ranks of the toughest fighting force on the planet?”

So why do people volunteer? Is it for recognition? Inclusion in a cause for good? To give of themselves? To serve others? I imagine there are as many reasons for good people to volunteer for difficult or challenging assignments as there are reasons not to.

I think of the spirit of the volunteer whenever I go to New York and walk to the site of the World Trade Center. One morning while standing at the entrance, I could see the brave men and women of NYC Fire and Rescue companies rushing out of Engine Company No 10 and other companies nearby, some pulling their gear on as they ran headlong into an inferno of debris, fire, dust—-and death. Why did they volunteer that morning?

I am glad difficult, perceived “impossible” assignments are always out there for us to ponder. They give us reasons for striving, imagining, dreaming, and most of all, finding if we have the mustard to achieve something great with our lives. Every person I interviewed for “When Heaven Visits, dramatic accounts of military heroes” was a volunteer. Some came home scarred for life, but not, and this is the important part, NOT defeated!

Virginia Veteran Reservists Whose Stories are Featured in When Heaven Visits.

 

When I listened…

to combat heroes tell their stories for “When Heaven Visits,” one thing became readily apparent… many heroes are still hurting, some in silence, others by the situation. Knowing they were sharing with a fellow veteran seemed to build trust and allowed them the freedom to open up. Several heroes gave me their stories by video connection on the cell phone. Whether face to face or electronically connected, I could “feel” the emotions of combat as they shared.

Some talked fast, their voices reflecting the horrors of combat as they shared. Others grew silent and somber when discussing what they had experienced. One hero became nauseous while sharing. When asked “do we need to stop”, he quickly replied, “no, I must tell you this.” I gained an appreciation for the care these heroes are receiving while wondering, “can I do more to help them?”

Carlos Showalter – 18 year old Marine When Heaven Visits– “Saipan” and “Iwo Jima”. Rest in Peace, 2020.

 

Carlos Showalter…

a great marine, who fought at the battles of Iwo Jima and Saipan led the “Flame of Freedom” ceremony for New Freedom Farm, Buchannan, VA.

New Freedom Farm, founded by Lois Dawn Fritz, Navy Veteran, is located in Buchannan, VA, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA. Freedom Farm serves veterans who deal with PTSD and other injuries. Other heroes at Freedom Farm are horses and other animals who have been rescued from neglect and abuse and given a new purpose in life to serve veteran heroes in their time of need.

“Rolling Thunder” sponsors New Freedom Farm”. Members of RT’s Mississippi chapter, stopped by to celebrate with Carlos, Lois and the assembled group.

Miss Virginia led the group in singing Happy Birthday” to Carlos on the occasion of his 95th birthday.

In addition to enjoying the celebration, I was privileged to present a signed copy of our recently published book “When Heaven Visits, dramatic accounts of military heroes” to the third generation of the Showalter family, Carlos’ granddaughter.

Carlos Showalter and Author Jerry Barnes at New Freedom Farm.