Tag: D-Day

D – Day

Early this morning in 1944, my father and Hugh Nibley were storming onto the beach at Normandy. Oddly, both of them were older GI’s, and were the same age at the time. My father landed on Omaha Beach, against terrible German emplacements firing down from a cliff above, without any tank support. Hugh Nibley landed on Utah Beach, where he arrived in a Jeep that drove through craters caused by the incoming German artillery fire.
It is hard to comprehend the chaos of that day. As my father was dying fifty years later, it was about that day he chose to speak. He wondered if the many more years he had been given than those he saw die that day had been well lived.

Therefore, when Saving Private Ryan came out years later, I concluded the universal result of living, when so many others died, was the same. The added years given the survivors were always viewed as a stewardship, a gift. One they would need to report on to their friends when they at last joined them in death.

That is not a bad way to live a life. Viewing it as a gift. A probation. An opportunity to do something worthwhile with the precious and limited time given to each of us.


On this morning 66 years ago my father landed on Omaha Beach in the first wave of the invasion.  He was a combat engineer, with the responsibility to blow up obstacles on the beach to let the tanks and equipment move about unimpeded.  The battle, however, changed plans.  He and everyone else there that morning needed to focus on the incoming fire and staying alive.

It didn’t matter that the obstacles were left.  No tanks arrived on Omaha Beach that day.  The explosives were better used to clear away a path to the German emplacements on the top.

As my father was dying, nearly 50 years later, he wondered why his life was spared when so many of his friends died that day.  A few years later when Saving Private Ryan was released it very much reminded me of my father.

I think of him every June 6th.  It seems more clearly a day tied to him than either his birthday on February 20th or the day of his death November 20th.  What a great man he was.  Possessed with profound insight, tempered by the things he suffered, living in obscurity, quick to laugh, never angry and capable of giving wise advice.  In all my life, I only saw him angry one time.  But I think I heard him laugh every single day; oftentimes at himself.