Wednesday, June 22, 2005

83-year-old Normandy Veteran

Last month, I joined the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Paid my dues, filled out my application, provided my DD-214 copy and was told to come back anytime. Everyone around the bar was friendly and I met a fellow named Al Simmons, who is now 83 years old. He was in the Navy, UDT (Underwater Demolitions Team - the prececessor to today's SEALs) and was on the beach at Normandy on D-Day.

Now, stop and think a minute folks, this was before SCUBA was invented; before wet-suits were invented. This was getting your body slathered with axle grease (like that would keep you warm), pulling on your flippers and face-mask and jumping into the water with orders to, "Go that way." His mission was to plant explosives on the obstacles the Nazi's had placed in the water to prevent the approach of the landing craft. He accomplished his mission and hid in a hedgegrove during the invasion. He was picked up by a Marine platoon and marched on Berlin with them.

I offered to buy him a beer and he thanked me and said he'd given up drinking when he turned 80. He had returned from the war with Hermann Goering's (the Luftwaffe chief) hunting rifles - inlaid with gold and if it hadn't been for a fire that destroyed his home, he would still have those priceless relics of days long gone.

I salute you Mr. Simmons.