Yesterday, watching the grass blow in the breeze and listening to the birds, I meditated on the meaning of Memorial Day. As I reflected on the holiday, I recalled a man I had met in the nineties: “Mac.” I was a court reporter back then and met Mac when I took his deposition in a class-action lawsuit filed by the Feds against scammers who had taken several thousands of dollars away from Mac who had been trying to win a diamond ring for his wife. He had one arm.
During the deposition, Mac testified as to his experience on D-Day in 1944 on the Normandy beaches: He had survived on Utah Beach without a scratch for twenty-eight days; his nickname–“Old Man”–he was eighteen years old. On the twenty-ninth day, his left arm was severed by a German machine gun. For such a “minor” injury, he was told by paramedics to walk, carrying his detached arm, to the medic tent amid more gunfire. He mainly, though, spoke of the men who had lost their lives on Normandy. He told of the soldiers who were cut down by machine-gun fire before they made it off the landing boats. He talked of the men who drowned when they were dropped into water too deep to survive with the heavy weight of their guns and equipment on their backs. He showed the attorneys and me around his home, the photos of the men he considered to be heroes and the memorabilia from those days that his wife had framed and hung. The attorneys and I left that day thanking Mac for his service. It was an emotional day.
I was so touched by Mac’s story that I reached out to him in the weeks after the deposition and asked if I could write his story. He agreed. At a scheduled time, I returned to his green pastures where he raised cattle and crops. Mac and his wife were gracious as they met me at the door and walked me into the kitchen, past the memorabilia, to talk about his life. They explained that when Mac returned from the war, they married and began farming this land. He had farmed and ranched here on this very site for some fifty years, by himself, with one arm and no help. When I finished writing his story, I sent it to Mac and his wife with some sadness at knowing I would never see them again. Mac was a veteran who touched my heart. I was honored to be allowed to know Mac and his story.
Thank you, Mac, and all those who were not so “fortunate” as Mac to come home missing just one arm. He was grateful for that. I am grateful to have met this amazing veteran.
Happy Memorial Day!