The Final D-Day | Marshall Ramsey
On June 6, 2011, in the corner of a forgotten nursing home, sat a forgotten man who was desperately trying to forget.
The old man looked around at the room; it was a cloudy blur. Cataracts had taken his one last good sense from him. He did know the room was full of women. Old, gossipy women, if you asked him. He was the only man in the room and a source of much of their gossip. It was enough to bring a smile to his weathered face. “I would have killed to be in a room full of women when I was 20.” He rolled his wheelchair over to the window and looked out at the mountains in the distance. He loved the East Tennessee Smokies. The mountains faded to black as he closed his eyes and drifted off. He had killed when he was 20.
Explosions rocked the airplane. A C-47 Dakota, the military version of the venerable Douglas DC-3 two-engined transport, had caught fire. The Germans apparently did not want company. It was June 6, 1944 — D-Day as General Eisenhower had called it when he spoke to him and his fellow Rangers. They were in the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, and today was the first day of the end of Hitler’s reign over the continent of Europe. Flak tore through the front of the aircraft, killing a Private who had been throwing up just a second ago. He looked away from the blood and out the window to see the right engine was flaming. Not a good start to the day. Suddenly an explosion…
The old man woke up. Dorothy Snodgrass had dropped her tray, causing the young orderlies to scurry like ants. To the workers at the nursing home, he was just an old man, a crumbled relic of humanity. He looked out at the mountains again and could see shapes in the clouds. That one reminded him of the Eiffel Tower. Ah, the day he helped liberate Paris. He could smell the sweet smell of perfume in the air. He closed his eyes, took a deep breathe and tasted the lipstick of the young French girl who had planted her lips on his.
A young worker tapped him on his shoulder. ”Time for your pills, old timer.” The man looked at the 24-year-old. The kid knew nothing about sacrifice. About pain. About losing everything and gaining ultimate victory. The kid shoved three pills in his mouth and gave him a drink of water. ”Swallow those and I’ll go get you some lunch.”
Lunch. Mush or whatever the mystery gruel of the day was. Sigh. He remembered his first meal at the German cafe in Berchtesgaden. The taste of the beer. The softness of the bread. The fraulein who served them. Blonde. Busty. He closed his eyes again and his mind drifted off.
More explosions. He floated down into Hell. The C-47 was on fire, lighting up the inky black of the Normandy sky — they had to jump early. Lord only knew where he was about to land. He looked over at his Captain. Tracer fire ripped through the Captain’s body, causing him to burst into a cloud of red vapor. What was left of his body plummeted to the ground. The Germans weren’t playing. He was jolted to his senses as his legs hit the ground. More explosions went off around him…
A door had slammed. The man lifted his chin so the young man could wipe the food off of it. How embarrassing. How could a warrior like him end up in this place?
He rolled over to a dark corner, forgotten and closed his eyes once again. This time there were no explosions; he just saw his old men. They were coming out of the light, surrounded by fog. There was Lefty. There was Sarge. There was Jimbo. All had perished in the Battle of the Bulge. The Captain came and grabbed his hand. ”Get out of that chair, soldier,” he commanded. The man could walk for the first time in years. He walked arm and arm with his old comrades into history.
His war was over. It was his final D-Day. His victory had finally come.