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Memorial Day, Milo, D-Day & DePaul

No, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider @DePaulpresident of DePaul University, the obnoxious, disrespectful, and disruptive DePaul BLM campus protesters of the Milo Yiannopoulos @Nero event last week were nothing like D-Day troops. (http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/26/milo-yiannopoulos-protesters-likened-to-d-day-troo/)

The only correct statement in your deeply offensive comparison is the same age of the two groups: 18-20+ year olds. And although offended, insulted, and irate, I won’t demand an apology or a “speech safe space”. I’ll just set the record straight.

 And btw, I am a huge supporter of both Milo and Trump.

This is my uncle (pictured below top left), a just-turned 19 year old Wisconsin boy in the Spring of 1944 before he shipped out to be amongst the D-Day troops. My grandfather, who served in WWI, had desperately, yet unsuccessfully, sent many letters petitioning the US government not to have him go. My grandfather’s oldest son, my other uncle, was already serving in the Pacific Theater. (Yes, the one Obama just apologized for in Japan*!) My grandfather pleaded for this son to stay home; he was needed to work on the family farm.

But D-Day was as much about the sheer numbers of bodies as it was about military strategy. My younger uncle was sent. He was among the troops who parachuted into Utah Beach, not Omaha, and survived. He was fortunate to not be amongst the 9,000 soldiers killed, as mentioned by the @WashingtonTimes article by Douglas Ernst: ”DePaul president: Campus Black Lives Matter activists like D-Day troops.”

On July 1st, 1944, in a letter to his parents (my grandparents), his older sister in nurses training at Mayo Clinic, and his little sister (my mother, only 12 years old then) my uncle wrote:

“Everything is OK so don’t worry about me. I’ll take real good care of myself and be a good soldier for my Lord as well as for my country. I sure put a lot of faith and trust in the Lord and I know it isn’t in vain. He is with me always. The French people here are real happy and you see French flags up and church bells ringing and so on. I’d really be happy after 4 years under German rule. Our next job will probably be the main push toward Germany. I hope it won’t be too bad and I really don’t think it will be…The prisoners we get are mainly Poles and Russians forced to fight against us and they are really happy to give up. Even the full blooded Germans are glad to give up…” 

He ends his letter, “Keep the home fires burning. I’ll be back soon.” 

That letter sounds NOTHING like your BLM “activists”.

One week later after writing that letter home, my 19 year old uncle was killed in the Battle of St. Lo, France. July, 10, 1944.

So let me say here, in the clearest of words, you sir, are an idiot.  Send your “noble” protestors, those DePaul “heroes” you defended who shut down Milo’s speech — send them overseas to fight a war for your freedom to say stupid things. Separate them from their families. Have them not come back alive and their families left to suffer, so you can make such reckless statements. 

And because it is Memorial Day as I write this, I will add that your little trip to Normandy, France (which I’ll venture a guess is funded not at your personal expense) is nothing like paying tribute to our US soldiers, or like my personal pilgrimage to that historic shore. 

I never knew my uncle. But I did know the heartache my beloved Granny carried with her until her death at 102 years old. She was a young woman of 43 years old when her son was killed in July of 1944. Parents do not get over the death of their children. It is why every time I see videos of Pat Smith, mother of Sam Smith killed in Benghazi, it breaks my heart. (https://youtu.be/Etykig0XE5A).  Like Pat Smith, it deeply troubled my Granny not knowing exactly when or how my uncle died. Did he suffer? Was he alone? That unresolved pain was real.

It is nothing like your DePaul mob.

In homage to my family, and especially my Granny, some 70 years after D-Day and my uncle’s death, my daughter and I drove across France (at our expense) on a pilgrimage to St. Lo, Caen, and Normandy Beach. We drove up to the bold flags against a bright blue sky at the Caen Museum. We walked through the village cemetery and the remnant of the blown away building that now serves as a memorial in St. Lo, and we dipped our free bare feet in the waves of Normandy Beach that were once stained red with the blood our American heroes. 

Not even close to your comparison.

*My older uncle returned home from WWII and is alive, active, and at 92 years old, still attends our annual week-long family reunion. Every summer since 1978 when the family farm was sold, my grandparents close-knit extended family, now 5 generations, gathers for a week-long reunion… Minus the family we never had because of the one son’s ultimate sacrifice after D-Day. The 5 generations have continued the family tradition of military service in Army, Marines, Navy, National Guard, and AirForce in Korea, VietNam, Iraq.

**My father-in-law was born to Japanese legal immigrants to Hawaii and he proudly served in the American Forces during WWII, even though his heritage (and now my own “hapa” children) includes those killed in Hiroshima.