For some reason, I got to thinking more about D-Day this year than previous years. Both my grandfathers served the war effort, as did my grandmother Neumann. Intending no disrespect to the contributions of the Neumanns, my thoughts have turned to my Grandpa Dubie. He rarely spoke of the war. Much of what I know comes from a single conversation. I’m not sure why he felt like sharing that day, but I am glad he did.
Grandpa didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. As the story goes, he entered Europe the day after, by way of the beaches. His brother also served in the US Army, but with the war going on, he had no idea if his brother was part of the D-Day invasion. As he came ashore, he said he felt like he wanted to turn over every dead service member he passed, fearing that one was his brother. I can almost hear the emotion in his voice as I recall the telling of his story.
I don’t know how long after entering Europe that Grandpa earned his purple heart. He and his partner were digging their fox hole that day. It was Grandpa’s turn to dig, and he went into the hole head-first to make more room for his toes. That’s when the shell landed. The next part of the story was his flight back, calves badly wounded, and the army medical personnel removing the maggots that were being used to clean out the wound. His partner, and most of his squad, did not make it back. Had he not been burrowed into the foxhole making more room for his feet, he would have returned in a casket.
While he survived the physical trauma of the war, the emotional scars remained. Forty-five years after returning to the US, he related a recurring nightmare; walking through a barn and having a German soldier jump down from the hay loft and repeatedly stab him in the chest. Grandpa said that he’d awoken pounding himself in the chest. I can only imagine the terror that must follow so many of our soldiers after their service.
So, what’s the point of this? First and foremost, it’s to share the story and honor just one of the millions of service members. Second, I think it’s important to maintain perspective. I have the pleasure of working as an Agile Coach. I work with people whose biggest complaint might be that they don’t have as much autonomy as they would like. Maybe their manager acts more like a boss, or the pace of their work doesn’t seem sustainable. Yes, those are things that can be improved. But, in the grand scheme of things, remember to be thankful that you’re not being shot at on a daily basis. And for those service members that do put themselves in harms way on a daily basis. Thank you.