It is hard to believe that by next June, it will be 80 years since D-Day, four score years since the Allied invasion of Normandy, during a global war, one meant to fight oppression and preserve the peace and freedom of people across the world. This was considered the ‘righteous’ war; Americans fought for democracy and to defeat tyranny.
Second Lieutenant Kate Flynn was there in Normandy, sloshing through the waves just a few weeks after D-Day. Kate Flynn remembered the date her entire life—not only the date of June 6th but the date of July 15th.
The beach was still smoking and littered with destroyed vehicles and equipment when her 53rd Combat Hospital (Heavy Casualty) unit landed on Utah Beach.
The twenty-two-year-old nurse was shocked at the sight, but she carried on like the eighteen other nurses in her unit. The 53rd was attached to infantry and armored units, parts of Patton’s Third Army.
For the next year, they moved forward every eight to ten days, breaking down the triage and surgical tents and staying close behind the front-line units. Kate and her fellow nurses were involved in every major engagement in that campaign, traveling from France through Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally into Germany.
She earned five battle stars in her service: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Central Europe, Rhineland, and the Battle of the Bulge.
The nurses didn’t have it easy.
After the war, like so many of her generation, she simply carried on.
Kate married James Nolan, a lovely man she met while training at what was then called MacDill Army Air Field in Tampa, FL. They had seven children, three of whom also served.
In 2001, over fifty years later, she returned to those beaches, the horrible memories and the nightmarish scenes resurfacing in her mind.
She joined veterans support groups, often the only woman in attendance.
Kate passed away in 2019. Like thousands of other members of the Greatest Generation, Kate Flynn Nolan won’t be able to witness the 80th anniversary.
But there are still living veterans who will see that day—attend the events, participate in the ceremonies, and watch the reenactments.
They will still remember, and their memories live in us.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln opened the Gettysburg Address with the words, “Four Score and seven years ago….”
In that brief 271-word speech, he brought the audience forward— from recalling the birth of the American nation to the midst of the bloody Civil War—at the gates of a new cemetery at the Gettysburg Battlefield where he stood.
Four score is eighty years; the plus seven meant Lincoln was referring to the fact that a mere 87 years before the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the American nation was born.
Eighty-seven years isn’t a long time.
While that period may have encompassed two or even three generations of Americans, it also means there were still those living men and women who could recall the struggle for independence from Great Britain and the pride in creating a new country independent and free.
They had to be shocked that it had taken so little time for a civil war and potential dissolution to threaten the new nation. On the 1863 day Lincoln gave that address, the war’s outcome was still uncertain, but ultimately, the union prevailed.
Lincoln’s speech reflected his belief that the war wasn’t just about the fight to preserve the union but reflected a higher ideal: to preserve freedom and equality for all.
Today, it is nearly four-score years since the launch of Operation Overlord and the beginning of the end of the Nazi efforts to bring a dictatorship to Europe. We have much to be grateful for today.
Eighty years may seem like a long time to some. But it is the sacrifices of our grandparents that brought hope and freedom to all of us.
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