D-Day Remembered

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the greatest military assault by the Greatest Generation in the war that threatened to end freedom throughout the world.  World leaders gathered today on the beaches of Normandy to honor the heroics of these great men, now few in number.

A few years ago I was at the museum at West Point, a place that is surprisingly quiet, considering the history there.  In the large lobby hung tall banners depicting major battles throughout the army’s history.  I stopped in front of the banner depicting the D-Day landings.  An old man, now frail and thin-haired stood next to me in silence.  “I was nineteen years old when I landed on the beach that day and I was scared shitless.”  I took his bony hand and shook it.  With tears in my voice, I said “thank you sir for doing that for me.”

Everyone was eager to fight to defend our country then.  It is time to say thank you to them for putting their lives on the line for all of us, especially for my family members.  Here are my family members who did their part.

Andrew Sciortino – Uncle Buddy, now 89.  He fought in Patton’s army across Europe.  Uncle Buddy still carries the shrapnel in him from German artillery.  During the Battle of the Bulge his feet froze so badly that they turned black.  Uncle Buddy tells the story of having to relieve himself during the battle.  A German sniper with a sense of humor aimed low, barely missing his exposed member.  Uncle Buddy jumped back into his foxhole without having time to zip up his pants.

Joseph Sciortino – Uncle Joey, now 94.  Uncle Joey was an infantryman in the Pacific.  He got trench foot so badly that he could not walk for months.

Vincent Montemarano – Uncle Jimmy was an army doctor in the Pacific.

Wolcott Chafee Hamblin III – Uncle Bud was also an army doctor in the Pacific.

Brita Sciortino, nee Ellison.  Aunt Brita was a reserve army nurse in New York.

Dagney Hamblin, nee Carlson.  Aunt Dagney was also a reserve army nurse in New York.

Anne Carlson, nee Sciortino – Mom. A graduate of Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing, she lived in the dormitory with Aunt Brita and Dagney.  They introduced each other to their brothers.  Brita married Buddy, Mom married Dagney’s brother, Dagney married Uncle Bud who was finishing up his residency at the hospital before shipping out.

Harold Carlson – Dad.  Dad was a navy yeoman.  He originally trained at Great Lakes Naval Station and was assigned to be a machine gunner on PT boats in the English Channel.  Somewhere along the line he learned to type.  That was considered a valuable skill, more so than firing a machine gun.  Anyone could be taught to fire a gun but not everyone could type.  Dad spent the war in Staten Island, typing orders.  They let him go home on weekends to stay with his mother, a gold star widow of WWI veteran Harold Eugene Carlson.  I think Dad always secretly felt bad about not serving overseas, especially since his brother-in-laws were wounded combat veterans.  In a twist of fate, Dad typed his own discharge orders at the end of the war.

Vincent Tortorella – Uncle Vinnie was too young to serve in WWII but he fought in Korea.  His unit served alongside the Turks, who he described as the most ferocious fighters he ever met.

Vincent Montemarano – Little Jimmy spent two years in Cam Ranh Bay as a doctor with the Seabees.  He still practices medicine and is a well-respected surgeon in Rhode Island.

Let us not forget all the veterans in all of the other wars from Afghanistan and Iraq to the French and Indian Wars before we were even a nation.  Their sacrifices have made our nation the great bastion of liberty and the beacon of hope for the world.

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