The Meaning of D-Day

June 6, 2012

As I sit and write this, it is fifty-eight years since Operation Overlord (the title given the massive operation we have come to know as D-Day) commenced. You can look elsewhere for the statistics to see how many were involved, how many died, and what all it took to begin this massive push to free the European continent.

I was privileged a few years ago to visit Nornamdy, and to tour the batttlegrounds of D-Day with active duty paratroopers from the U.S., Great Britian, France, Germany, and Italy. At each battle site, we were briefed on what took place at that location, how long the battle lasted, how many lives were lost, and what the lessons to be learned for today’s military might be. Suffice it to say that the wars and battles being fought today are markedly different from what “The Greatest Generation” engaged.

There were also men with us on that tour who were a part of the operations of D-Day. With each passing year, their numbers grow smaller, and in a sense, our nation pride diminishes. They are the men who, as boys, did what few today would do: they signed on for a war to fight wrong, not just another country.

And they won. We need to remember what they did, and what they won for we who were not born then.

But D-Day has another meaning, at least for me. Nine years ago tonight, my parents crawled into bed and turned out the lights. Some time later, around 11:30, Dad rolled out of bed; Mom assumed he was headed to the bathroom, when she heard him hit the floor. He did not get up. She got out of bed and walked around to him, and held him in her arms through the night. Just a little shy or their 58th wedding anniversary, she was unwilling to let him go.

We did not ask for an autopsy, as that would have revealed little, if anything. But we gathered a few days later in the church where Mom and Dad raised us, and said good-bye to a man who exemplified charater, integrity, and strength. Dad never stood out in a crowd. He worked hard and faithfully, did what was asked of him (and more), put three kids through college, buried one of them (my older brother died from cancer eight years before Dad), and loved my Mother with a passionate, unwavering, quiet devotion.

Exactly one month after D-Day, Dad walked across Omaha Beach to serve the U.S. Army. A few days later, leading his platoon into battle, he was shot, and captured, by the German Army. He spent the next ten months as “a guest of the German Army,” as he used to put it.

Grover Charles Roberts was not an American hero. But he was, and remains, my hero. The flag given to Mom at Dad’s death, along with the medals he was awarded as a soldier, adorn the wall in my office at home, and I see them daily, grateful for the man.

To me, D-Day means “Dad’s Day.”

Here’s to you, Dad.

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2 Responses to “The Meaning of D-Day”

  1. Paul Davis Says:

    Thanks Chuck, for your dad’s service to our country and saving the world. My two war heroes were my Dad, a Navy lieutenant whose repair facility put the landing craft used by the Marines and Army in the pacific back together after some hard use…. and my mom the Navy nurse who helped put the soldiers and sailors back together at Pearl Harbor.

    I am looking forward to following Team Guayaquil when you start to upload the progress.

  2. G. Lee Cross III, MD Says:

    My Dad flew a bombing mission over the beach that day. Every time May 22, the day of his death comes around, I pause more than usual to remember his life, his gifts to me, and the ache of having done CPR on him without a hope of success. I am a much better man because he was my father, like you Chuck. We stand proudly on their shoulders.

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