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Remembering D-Day through the actions of a 16 year-old Paratrooper

On the eve of his 16th birthday a young paratrooper, from Hazard Kentucky, stared into the blackness of the  French sky.  Flying over NAZI controlled France he sat with other paratroopers waiting for his turn to jump into the black void.  Sitting there in silence we can only imagine what was going through his young mind.  It was June 6, 1944, on what would turn out to be the most eventful birthday of his young life.   He thought for a moment about his home in Kentucky and the life he had left to fight for the freedom of people  living in cities and towns he could not even pronounce.  He remembered his coal miner father finally giving in to his constant demands to join the army.   The then 15-year-old was thrilled when his father finally signed the enlistment form. 

The young soldier never in his wildest dreams could have imagined the role he would play on this critical day in world history.  He and his fellow paratroopers were tasked with parachuting behind enemy lines to prepare the way for the naval juggernaut leaving the shores of Great Britian a few hours later.  As the vanguard of  Operation Overlord, the success of the invasion depended upon  these paratroopers achieving their objectives.  As we know from our history books, Operation Overlord was successful.  Europe and the world were saved from the horrors of a future “Thousand-year Reich.” 

Fast forward to 2024 as our news is filled with the actions of a different type of 16-year-old.  Every night our newscasts report on the heinous acts of lawless teenagers from L.A. to Chicago, to New York City.  If these reports cause you to lose hope for the future of the United States, I want you to remember the patriotism and courage of this  teenager from Kentucky eighty years ago. 

I want to believe his spirit is alive today in teenagers across the country.  Teenagers who quietly go to school, play High School sports, or involve themselves in community and church activities.  Teenagers who volunteer to help others in need.  Sure, they don’t make the nightly news with their quiet lives.  Our news organizations are more interested in reporting the anti-societal actions of the few instead of the positive actions of the many.  When deciding what stories merit broadcast, the media seems to follow a verse in the Eagles song which proclaims, “give us dirty laundry.”

On this auspicious anniversary of D-Day let’s honor the spirit of all those nameless, selfless young men and women who risked their lives, bled, and died on that foreign beach so many years ago.  Let us instill in our youth their values, character, and pride of country.  Search for, encourage, and celebrate the lives of today’s teenagers who embody the spirit of this young 16-year-old Kentucky paratrooper whose courage and commitment to the ideals of freedom is an example for us all.

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