... a World War II D-Day veteran reflects on a soldier's legacy
I had been invited in 2004 by the people of Luxembourg to attend their annual Luxembourg/America Friendship Week ceremonies at which I would receive two certificates of appreciation for being part of a US Army division that had prevented their country from being overrun by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Since my wife Edith and daughter Karen were going to be with me in Normandy in early June we decided to go to Luxembourg for the ceremonies which would take place at the end of June. To get to Luxembourg by train we had to change trains in Paris. When Karen realized this she said that she would go to Paris with us so that she could celebrate her fiftieth birthday there. Since we had time to spare before we had to be in Luxembourg we decided to spend five days in Paris. We did indeed celebrate Karen's birthday in a very fine restaurant in the area of Paris where Ernest Hemingway and his cohorts had hung out in the 1920s.
Karen had to return to the US as her vacation had ended but we continued on to Germany where we would stay with our American friends until it was time for them to drive us to Luxembourg. One afternoon my friend asked me if I would like to meet Helen Patton, the granddaughter of General Patton. He told me that she is married to a German Pediatric Surgeon and that she lives about 20 minutes away and she is a close friend. Of course, my answer was affirmative so my friend phoned Helen and she invited us to visit. Once she learned that we both used to attend Jazz performances at Sandy's in Beverly and that Billie Holiday was our mutual favorite vocalist, we established a firm friendship.
The picture above shows Helen Patton at the Hamm American Cemetery in Luxembourg where her grandfather General George S. Patton is buried. The gentleman next to her is Luxembourger Constant Georgan, who organized all the events of the Luxembourg/American Friendship Week.
Helen is currently in Connecticut where she is performing in a production of "The Music Man." She phoned me from there and told me about the annual Blueberry Festival at Green Meadows Farm which they own and operate in South Hamilton, Massachusetts where the Patton home is located. I phoned Joanne, Helen's mother, to find out the date and time of the festival. She provided the information after telling me that there would be a festival but it would not be a Blueberry Festival because the entire blueberry crop had been destroyed by the recent flooding.
Edith and I decided to attend and it turned out to be a delightful experience. Everything grown on the farm is truly organic and is sold to the public at a stand located on the farm. Helen had told me that if individuals could not afford to pay for their purchases they were allowed to work on the farm long enough to compensate for what they had purchased.
The festival was geared to entertain children. We watched some riding ponies and visiting a petting compound of small farm animals. Most of the youngsters ate modestly priced items such as hot dogs and burgers and pizza. Also available was a delicious salad of greens and other ingredients grown on the farm as well as a variety of beverages and desserts.
While eating lunch I was observing the children who ranged in age from toddler to about 10 years old. They were all well-dressed and well-fed, healthy looking and happily enjoying themselves and their surroundings. There appeared to be two hundred or more families present. I suddenly seemed to have an epiphany. I started thinking of those youngsters as my legacy because of what I and about one hundred and fifty-thousand veterans had done on D-day 62 years earlier. We had enabled those youngsters to be born and raised in the freedom and liberty they were enjoying.
While engaging in what was transpiring on D-day I was not thinking in such empirical terms. All I was doing was mourning the 37 members of my gun battery who were killed while their landing craft was approaching Utah Beach and trying to avoid being wounded or killed myself. I was nineteen years old at the time and it took the perspective of sixty-two years for me to fully appreciate the significance of what I had been a part of.
It made me ponder and appreciate the words of President Clinton at the Fiftieth Anniversary ceremonies in Normandy. "They walk with a little less spring in their steps and their ranks are growing thinner but we must always remember that when these men were young they saved the world."