Honor & Respect (Normandy American Cemetery) – D-Day June 6 1944 – by Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2 Video Contest

By: Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2

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Three years ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the American and Allied forces on D-Day.  It was humbling to stand among the men who fought to give freedom to others.  Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of Nazi Germany.

One thing I will never forget at Normandy was seeing how respectful the French were by adopting the headstones of fallen American soldiers.  It was a tradition started  almost immediately after the D-Day invasion in June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s grave near their village was tended to.  That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.

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These photos are candid pictures of a French family paying their respects to a fall soldier, and teaching the next generation to do the same.
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Traditionally French families tend the grave sites of soldiers who died fighting near their home or village.

The family brought small bags of sand from Omaha beach and had each boy rub the sand on the headstones they visited in order to view the solder’s names more clearly.  Then they placed flowers in front of the headstones and took a picture of the boys, before moving on to honor another fallen hero.

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Young boys posing briefly for a picture by the headstone of an American soldier.

I candidly observed this ritual being repeated throughout the afternoon.  Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

PFC Richard Kunkel, New York. Killed in action June 6, 1944.
Richard Kunkel (PFC, 501st Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division) of New York was killed in action June 6, 1944, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was posthumous awarded a Purple Heart.

Since the French haven’t forgotten the price of their freedom, I pray that we as Americans  never will either.  Yet today, a growing percentage of youth lack basic knowledge about WWII or Hitler’s atrocities.  Help us change this by passing along the legacy of the Greatest Generation by spreading the word about the iHistory WW2 video contest for today’s junior high and high school students!

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And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as retired businessmen,  volunteers, Wal-Mart greeters, and great-grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory WW2 website or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

Nobility In Response To Oppression – By Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

The call to arms rang out across the land.  Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and from every corner of the nation men and women answered the call.

Stop.  Think about those from whom the American dream was often, possibly even universally withheld; those whose heritage disenfranchised them from the words “all men are created equal.”  Among them was a young Navajo, Jack Jones.   His culture, even his name, was taken from him in the U.S. government’s drive to erase the Native Americans’ ways of life.

Jack could have said this wasn’t his fight.  His was a hard life.  As a child he was sent to boarding school where he was taught his native language, and all that made him Navajo, was bad.  He ran away from home and from boarding school.    He rode the rails, accepting the transient life of a hobo to that which awaited him on the reservation.  Are you angry, yet?  Are you ready to say,  ”Jack, don’t go?” His response will surprise you!

Jack, and many other young men of the Navajo nation, answered a very special call to arms.  Their language, once reviled, became a secret military code never broken by the enemy.  The Code Talkers, as they were known, coordinated combat operations, calling in air strikes and providing other essential battlefield communications.    Jack felt honored, even grateful for the chance to help his native language endure and to be an asset to the defense of the country.  He held no grudge.  He took solace in saving American lives, though he never rejoiced in killing.

History is witness to the Code Talkers’ contributions.  Jack Jones’ vision is realized.  Oppression was stopped.  The Navajo culture and its language continues, now living in a special place of honor and respect.

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org.