So I've spent much of the week hunkered over doing a profile of a local veteran for the 60th anniversary of D-Day for Sunday's newspaper. The gentleman, an 88-year-old old former lieutenant on a minesweeper, was a kind fellow, still hale and hearty enough, and a pleasure to write about.
During the course of the week I did a bit of research and have been looking over other stories on the D-Day invasion. It's pretty hard for us callow twenty-and-thirtysomethings raised in the age of irony and Gulf Wars to comprehend what D-Day was like. I'm pretty much as against our current war as you can get, but it's hard to argue that D-Day, despite the massive loss of life, was an invasion that had to happen to put the final nail in Hitler's twisted dreams. The numbers are staggering: 150,000 Allied troops invaded France that day in 1944, an army that boggles the mind. Of them, thousands died. The total numbers aren't even known for certain today, but around 5,000 Allied troops, up to 10,000 Germans and as many as 20,000 civilians died in the events leading up to the invasion and in the battle itself, according to the Associated Press.
I have to admit I'm usually a cynical postmodern kinda guy, but there's not a lot you can say when confronted with numbers like that. I shook the hand of the D-Day veteran I interviewed this week, and told him it was an honor to meet him. "They saved the world," this man's son told me during our interview. That just about sums it up, too.