Recently, my son and I had the opportunity to hear two World War II veterans speak at his high school. Little did I know I would end up witnessing one of the most heartwarming moments I’ve ever seen in my life.
The first gentleman to speak, Thomas Berg, was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked in 1941. With amazing clarity and in great detail, he spoke for nearly an hour about how he survived that fateful day 78 years ago, breaking down in tears at one point from his emotional recollection.
The second gentleman, Thomas Hart MacElwee, served on a submarine chaser during the D-Day landings at Normandy. We listened, riveted, as he brought us to Omaha Beach with him all those years ago.
At the end of the talk, they opened up a Q&A session from the audience. What happened next was like a scene out of a movie. An elderly woman, sitting in the back of the room, quietly raised her hand, then stood up.
“I was there,” she said, in a foreign accent. The entire room turned to stare at the woman. “I was in the Netherlands. And they slipped a note under our door telling us to stay inside. A note that said you were coming. To save us.” The woman’s voice started to break as she addressed the veterans, some 75 years later. “And you DID. You saved us and I just wanted to say…THANK YOU.”
And then I just cried. For all those young boys that lost their lives…boys no different from my 17-year-old son sitting next to me. My son, who has all the freedom in the world.
I cried because it saddens me that we live in such a divisive country today, a country so very many people have died to protect. I cried out of gratitude for those who did.
Because in the end, despite our political differences, we are all Americans. We share this history. And I am grateful that my son was able to see, to feel, a piece of that history come alive.
And I hope that he will go forth in this world with a deeper appreciation of the freedom that we should never take for granted. I hope he will remember the sacrifices that were made. I hope we all do. ❤️