I think of the water—crashing and reaming against the sides of their boats, rocking the steel platforms that they had their feet planted on. A frothy, foamy excursion through wailing winds and raging ocean waters. The spray would plume up and over the sides of the boats, misting them with a salty shower that seeped into their cuts and sores, chapped their dried, burned lips, and singed their swollen tongues. The unforgiving water would cling to their jackets, soaking through into their shirts, chilling their cores to a shivering edge. It would bleed into their boots, coating their socks in the freezing ocean rain until their feet were frozen and wrinkled, covered in blistering wounds that ached with every step.
The decks of their skiffs would form swimming pools, inches deep, blending and breaking back and forth. The water would seem clear enough, until it became tainted—swirling to every corner with traces of the mornings breakfast. Bits of mashed cracker, dark coffee, regurgitated jerky—vomited rations all twisting in with the wetness of the water. The salting scent would cover most of the foul smells, sloshing as gray liquid, flowing across the deck, over their feet, and around their legs.
Hundreds of these boats, all slicing through the damning waves, trudging closer and closer to a looming fate ahead. Cliffs towering above their heads, painted black against the pale sky, with silhouetted boxes atop the steep’s edge. Boxes packed with calling death, aiming and spewing the grim reaper’s charge out across the billowing wastes of a sandy beach.
It would start, with whizzing trails of hot metal zipping by the heads and faces of them. They would shout, barking commands to one another, crouching low to their knees, submersing more of themselves into the vile pools that swept the decks. Some of them would be put in the wrong place, standing down the sight of a whipping bullet. The clang that would sound as the round tunneled through the forest green helmet, the padding, the flesh, and bone, would ring sharp and sinister, tunneling its own way into the memories of those surrounding. An unforgettable death rattle as some of their own would crumble to their knees, lifeless in the muggy ocean water.
The boats would near the sandy shore, with a palpable fear for what would be next. The bows of their transports would drop, dunking into the sloshing water, giving them signal to rush beyond. Hailing rain of lethal fire would splash down on them, drenching many in the warm flood of their own blood. There would be no choice, no other option, but to jump into the reddening waters that lapped against the white sand–and run. Run as hard and fast as they could. Up the banking shoreline on ground that sunk and pulled at boots too filled with crimson salt water to rightfully press on.
The splitting crash of a thousand rifles would burn their ears, making it impossible to relay the next move. They would look to their left and right, seeing the countless dead—their brothers, lying twisted and ruined across the stained seaboard. The fear would run refreshed at the harrowing sight and sound of thousands of their own, dying against the tide of a million bright fireflies, racing to pierce and puncture skin.
They would push, and swing, slash and break themselves hard against the cliffs and concrete boxes dotting the rise. They would fall, slamming into the thickened sand, and two more of them would turn back, grappling at an injured one’s vest, tugging and dragging him all the way to a shielded place. Some of them would crouch in the open, hunched over a broken and bleeding body, and with shaking hands, would sow and sedate the wound. Some would stand up into the sheer of speeding metal, leading the others up another bank, down, around, and across. Leading them to the only place they could ever hope to see June 7th. Beyond the dead, the dying, the cliffs, the boxes—to whatever lay on the other side.
Them. The brave. The strong. The ones who would take up the torch, and strike deep into the heart of darkness. The ones like us, who fear and fail, but instead, wrestled with demons and distraught to throw back one of the worst oppressions this world has seen. The ones who rose above the call, stepping off the gangplank into bloody waters–an unknown, unsafe fight for freedom in a land that was foreign and strange. The ones who led, and the ones who followed. Them. Who will never be forgotten, never be erased from the bracket of history—charred into our memories, our prayers, our love, and our passion. Burning beautifully golden and ripe today, we were given these connections, relations, and agency because of a sacrifice made by them, on a day so dim and dark, as the one that dawned on June 6th, 1944.