Remembering D-Day through Art

In the United States and in Europe, people observe June 6 as D-Day, when in 1944 Allied troops invaded Normandy France, liberate France from Nazi occupation and ultimately end World War II. Special observances are planned to observe the 75th anniversary of that historic event. 

Remembering D-Day by the Numbers (source-The American Legion Magazine) 

  • 156,000 troops from Allied nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Norway, and others 
  • 5 beaches along 50 miles of Normandy coast 
  • 6000 ships
  • 50,000 vehicles
  • 11,000 planes
  • 12,004 killed, wounded, missing or captured 

Remembering D-Day by One Man

I learned about D-Day from my late friend Bill Hart, who died in 2014. Bill served in the U.S. Army during World War II , and his unit was part of the force that invaded Normandy.

Bill wrote an illustrated memoir about his military experiences. Through his written and visual account, he left us a first hand account of an experience that changed his life and changed the world. I want to share some of his memories with you here.

D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY

Fighting the war in Europe

In 1943, as a 20 year old, Bill  joined the Army, deployed to England, and prepared for the invasion. What he thought would be a grand adventure turned into a nightmare which he vividly captured in his book.

Several days into the fighting on the beaches at Normandy, he was assigned to pick up and transport the bodies of fallen soldiers. Thereafter, as he worked his way across France and Belgium into Germany, he found himself dodging enemy soldiers, liberating concentration camps, dealing with angry and defeated POWs, and famished, humiliated civilians struggling to survive.  Bill described what he saw and felt this way.

2 SOLDIERS AND A JEEP

“At night I would think about the poor GI’s family when they got the news of his death. I tried not to think too much about this “dead guy” job. It seemed to go on forever.

For the next month and a half I was really alone, not attached to any outfit. I found my own food, water, gas for the Jeep and slept alone beside the Jeep in an open field. I shaved with cold water in my helmet and used my Jeep mirror to see.

The Germans were always near. I was scared I would be killed or captured. “Who knows where I am? Who would tell my mother if I died?”

In the beginning it had been exciting being alone with the invasion action all around me. But now I have panic attacks and nightmares of the dead bodies waking me as I sleep in the open field alone.

Most GI’s have other soldiers around them to feel safety in numbers. I had no one. I can’t get their dead faces out of my mind. I wait for the bright morning sun to erase the terrible images.”

Fighting a war at home

After the war, Bill established a career as a commercial artist. Art provided not only a living for him and his family but also an outlet for dealing with the distressful memories of the war.

He created an extensive portfolio of drawings and paintings depicting  images of what he saw and experienced.  By expressing his feelings on canvas, he released some of their distress.

SOLDIER LYING ON THE GROUND

“Later I forced myself to stop thinking about the “dead guys” experience and eventually forgot it.

62 years later, in 2006, when I applied for compensation for war injury during the Battle of the Bulge, the woman who interviewed me kept telling me I was leaving something out, something from my past.

I finally remembered after much writing about my remembered events in the 1944 and 1945 war period and was diagnosed with PTSD.

I believe, the greatest event of the 20th century took place during the June 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion. I am very proud of being a small part of that great historical event that will always be remembered.”

Quotes and drawings from Bill’s memoir, D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY (copyright) used by permission of his wife

Bill was proud to be a World War II veteran and I count it a privilege to know him. He was a kind, gentle man who loved God, his family and friends. He is missed by all of us who love him.

MAN IN A NORMANDY D-DAY HAT
Bill Hart, World War II veteran

 

 

Bill also drew other subjects.  Every year he and his wife sent out a Christmas card which he illustrated.

shepherds raising arms to the sky
one of Bill’s Christmas card drawings

Bill’s artwork and copies of his book are available to purchase from his wife. If you are interested, contact me here and I will put you in touch with her.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER-PTSD

Once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, has become the most common post-military service disorder. Although it also occurs in civilians who experience severe trauma, it has  been defined, studied, and treated among current and former service members.

PTSD develops after exposure to or experiencing significant traumatic events such as interpersonal violence, death or  threat of death, serious accidents, disasters and combat.

There are 4 types of symptoms-

  • Intrusions, such as flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoidance- isolating oneself from people and/or certain situations
  • Negative mood changes, such as irritability, anger and depression
  • Hypervigilance- being easily startled, always on edge

PTSD can also lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicide.

It is also frequently associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)  and chronic pain.

The National Center for PTSD (Veterans Administration)  is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD, working to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. They offer extensive information and resources at this link

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Shop To Help Veterans! Every Purchase Funds At Least One Meal For A Veteran!

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

 

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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How Two Words and Two Left Feet Still Change My Life

OUR TWO LEFT FEET 

My husband and I have taken ballroom dance lessons for 14 years and currently study with a ballroom dance teacher who calls his dance school  Two Left Feet. We were both in our 50s when we started dancing and have never looked back. We regularly dance socially, compete in regional events, and perform in dance showcases. Dancing has become our favorite recreational  interest and has changed our lives. 

Unfortunately, we’ve had some “bumps” along the dance floor. I broke my right foot and couldn’t dance for several months. My husband needed surgery for an ankle fracture so will be off his right foot for several weeks. 

But thank goodness, our “two left feet”  have stayed safe and healthy. 

a couple in fancy clothes with medals around their necks

showing off the medals we won in a dance competition

 

 

OUR TWO WORDS 

“Two” was also a lucky number for us 45 years ago. We fell in love and married because of two words that changed our lives. But a few years into our marriage, our luck ran out. Here is our story of finding it again. We share it because we know other couples share a similar story and think  it may help them. Maybe that’s you; if so, let us know. Contact us here

“I’M AVAILABLE”

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base

various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

 

 

 

 

VIETNAM WAR 

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes. Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; far too often those who served in Vietnam did not. 

library interior

The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

a couple sipping from a shake with two straws

sharing a drink on a dance competition trip

 

 

 

Words that changed our lives- post-traumatic stress disorder

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband didn’t talk about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize and honor Vietnam veterans’ service and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial

We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

 

 

 

 

MISSING PEACE

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and started to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith-based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing

Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years learning and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.

 

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

       

2 Corinthians 5: 18 , VWAM’S MOTTO

                                                                                   

an American veteran and a North Vietnamese veteran

TWO VETERANS-ONE AMERICAN, ONE NORTH VIETNAMESE

 

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. This and other books sparked an interest in  health care and I decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would  help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes

And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience!

 

 

 

WORDS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

 

Raymond researched and wrote about a little known battle of the Vietnam war. His is an eyewitness account of the events and aftermath of the Battle for Tra Bong. It is available as an eBook for Amazon Kindle or for free Kindle Reading apps for any device. 

Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam: Events and Aftermath

The following is an excerpt.

Fire Support Base (FSB)/Landing Zone (LZ) Cindy was established in 1968 by being relocated from Tam Ky, Vietnam. By 1970, the FSB was considered a “model” for other FSBs in South Vietnam.

The base operated on the high ground of the Happy Valley with an Observation Post (OP) Searchlight (SLT) unit that provided illumination at night for the entire valley. Next to the FSB was an Armed Forces Vietnam (ARVN) unit of 100 men. Besides the helicopter landing zone, we had the shortest airstrip in Vietnam managed by a Military Air Command Vietnam (MACV) unit. The Tra Bong village was between MACV and FSB/LZ Cindy.

The firebase had tremendous firepower with automatic weapons, 50-caliber and 60-caliber machine guns to include a Quad 50, Dusters, 8 inch and 175 howitzers, mortars, grenades, claymores, flares, etc. In the year 1970, FSB Cindy had zero Wounded in Action (WIA) or Killed in Action (KIA) men by enemy forces. Also, the North Vietnamese (NVA) did not penetrate our perimeter because our unit operated as a team.

A Battery remained at FSB/LZ Cindy (BS342882) providing general support to both US and ARVN units. On 16 September 1971, A Battery was moved to Chu Lai to begin stand down activities.

During Christmas of 1971, the ARVN camp was overrun by NVA/VC and wiped out.

The firebase did have a major battle in September 1970. That battle and how it impacted the war in general and one soldier’s life specifically is the subject of this book.

We who served on LZ Cindy in 1969 and after when the unit left in 1971 did a job that had to be done to save more lives than were taken by the enemy. All of us were there because we were asked or drafted to serve this country and help the people of Vietnam survive.

Those of us who did the job on LZ Cindy did the best we could to survive and help those who served with us. It is unfortunate that some of those did not survive, but in war people die, and there is nothing we can do about it.

 

 

We also recommend Robert Seiple’s book-

 

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis

“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”

(Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)

 

 

 

 

 

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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