Chairman Buyer Tells Normandy Memorial Day Audience

0
675

Chairman Buyer Tells Normandy Memorial Day Audience “These are the lives we must celebrate

Normandy, France,  Chairman Steve Buyer and Veterans Health Subcommittee Chairman Henry Brown (R-SC) addressed a international audience in the 2005 Normandy Memorial Day ceremony held Sunday at the American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking Omaha Beach, site of D-Day’s heaviest fighting, on June 6, 1944.

These are the lives we must celebrate.  Nearly 200,000 American fighting men and women died six decades ago in the European Theater to restore freedom. Each white marker on this green field commemorates one life transformed from the ordinary to the eternally extraordinary, Buyer said to audience members, who did not allow rain showers to deter them from observing the annual remembrance. 

Before and after the ceremony, Buyer spoke with still-grateful French survivors of the occupation, as well as British paratroopers who landed in the hedgerows the night before the invasion.  In one poignant moment, Buyer and Brown met a 90-year-old French survivor of Dachau, dressed in his prisoner clothing.

     

Representative Brown also spoke. He told the audience they stood on consecrated ground, recalling President Reagan’s 1984 portrayal at Normandy of these veterans as champions who helped free a continent.  

These champions climbed the cliffs, took the beaches, braved the machine gun nests, took out the gun batteries, did the unthinkable the unimaginable.  Their works define their valor, Brown said. He recounted the heroic leadership of Citadel graduate and native of South Carolina Army Major Thomas Dry Howie.  Howie was killed in action shortly after D-Day, leading his men in the desperate battle to capture the key crossroads city of Saint Lo.

Buyer recalled one such champion, Indiana native Mac Lawrence, who came ashore in the second wave at Omaha Beach. 

Mac hit the beach on the second wave with only a red cross on his shoulder to protect him.  He fought to save his buddies one wounded man at a time.  For Staff Sergeant Lawrence, as for the nation, there was so much at risk.  On that beach there was no retreat, no cover, no respite, Buyer said.  

Mac survived D-Day.  He went on to earn two Silver Stars, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts before Europe was liberated.  He dedicated his life to others as a teacher in Francesville, Indiana, and raised his family. Mac died last year; I remember him well. He, and thousands like him, stormed onto the exploding beaches of Northern France or jumped into its tracer-filled skies, Buyer said. Step by step, mile by mile, they gave new meaning to heroism by giving new hope to a continent enslaved. American soldiers on D-Day came to a land they had never seen to fight for a people they had never met.  They fought for no bounty of their own and they left freedom in their footsteps.  

Looking out across the audience and over the white crosses and Stars of David marking the graves of 9,387 U.S. war dead, Buyer recognized the presence of the fallen.

So many are now silent forever, he said.  But are they?  Again, if I permit the eyes of my mind to have a vision, I can see them.  If I permit the ears of my heart to listen, I can hear them. As you walk these grounds, as you look over the final resting places the white crosses, the white Stars of David what are your senses?  What do you see there? What do you hear there?   These souls lived.  I see and hear them say:  We were proud to be here. Our lives were good, and what we did here mattered.  And in exchange, we ask that you fully live your lives as free men and free women’.

Even as we solemnly memorialize the selfless acts that brought these lives to ultimate sacrifice, the blessing of their presence is cause for celebration . . . it is up to us, the living, who are entrusted with something very precious: freedom, won by champions.  As we acclaim their cause, let us also celebrate that these men and women lived and forever honor their duty, courage, and sacrifice in the name of freedom, He said.

###

CHAIRMAN BUYER ADDRESSED MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONIES AT AMERICAN NATIONAL CEMETERIES OF NORMANDY & SURESNES
Chairman Buyer and Subcommittee Chairman Henry
Brown’s remarks as delivered yesterday
Memorial Day 2005   Normandy, France
May 29, 2005

Chairman Buyer: 

Monsieur Le Prefect;
General Sanchez;
Mr. Consul General;
Distinguished Guests;
Veterans;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Good morning.  Bonjour.

On behalf of the U.S. Congress, as a representative of the United States, I am pleased so many of our allies are present.  I assure you, just as you want America to be strong, America wants and desires our allies to be economically and militarily strong for the sake of the peace and stability of your continent.

It is an honor to be with you on this day of national remembrance.  

For it is here at Normandy we celebrate and memorialize those who defined their life at the moment of death by standing in the name of freedom against the cold winds of tyranny.  

I would like to introduce Representative Henry Brown, of the 1st District of South Carolina.  Mr. Brown chairs our subcommittee on veterans’ health and once wore the uniform himself.  

He is a great supporter of our nation’s veterans — and the men and women in our armed forces who are today’s champions in the noble cause of freedom. 

Chairman Brown: Ladies and gentlemen, we stand on consecrated ground.  

Each of us who cherishes a life of freedom and the promise of tomorrow is connected to this place.  For here, the young men who President Reagan at Point du Hoc in 1984 called the champions who helped free a continent helped secure a world’s tomorrows.

These champions climbed the cliffs, took the beaches, braved the machine gun nests, took out the gun batteries, did the unthinkable the unimaginable.  Their works define their valor.

One of those champions was U.S. Army Major Thomas Dry Howie, a South Carolinian and graduate of The Citadel. 

 

Major Howie, known as the Major of Saint Lo, led the Third Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division, which landed at Omaha Beach. 

 

After weeks of exhausting combat in one of history’s bloodiest campaigns, in the hedgerows near where we stand, Major Howie was ordered to relieve the regiment’s Second Battalion. 

 

In two hours his men did it, defeating Germans who had held for days.  Major Howie saw the opportunity for his battalion to continue their momentum and take Saint Lo, an important crossroads.

 

Taking a field phone, he told his commanding general, The Second can’t make it . . . They’re exhausted.  They’re too cut up.  Then after a moment, he said, Yes, we can do it . . . See you in Saint Lo!

 

Major Howie gave the order for attack. At that moment a German mortar barrage hit the battalion.  Shrapnel struck Howie in the back, mortally wounding him. 

 

The news of this beloved officer’s death bolstered the men of the Third Battalion, who took Saint Lo in fierce combat.

 

Remembering Howie’s vow to see him in Saint Lo, his commanding general had him placed into an ambulance, still in his combat gear, so that he could be driven into the city. 

 

With combat still raging, Howie’s men carried his body into the city and placed him, draped with an American flag, on the rubble of a church wall.  The men then returned to battle.

 

A monument to Major Thomas Dry Howie stands in Saint Lo.  Yet a greater monument stands in our solemn gratitude that such men lived among us.

 

And so we here today our eyes beholding these sacred remains, our hands unbound and free of tyranny, our hearts warm in that solemn trust we give thanks for the champions who helped free a continent, and in so doing exchanged their tomorrows . . . for ours.

 

God Bless our fallen heroes and the loved ones they left behind.  We remember . . .

 

Chairman Buyer: In 1944, America and our allies were united in a community of purpose to destroy tyranny and restore freedom.  On June 5th and 6th of that year, in this air, on this beach, in these fields, now so tranquil, the climactic battle of World War Two began.

For all its sweeping importance, D-Day is really a story of people.  History is that way.  As the years pass, great events acquire the coherence, wholeness and solidity of objects. 

It seems great events are really the collected works of ordinary people performing extraordinary deeds.  

Chairman Brown spoke of such a person who he called one of the champions — an infantry officer and Citadel graduate named Major Thomas Dry Howie, whose willpower even after his death propelled his men to victory in desperate battle at Saint Lo.  

These are the lives we must celebrate.  Nearly 200,000 American fighting men and women died six decades ago in the European Theater to restore freedom. 

Each white marker on this green field commemorates one life transformed from the ordinary to the eternally extraordinary.  

Even as we solemnly memorialize the selfless acts that brought these lives to ultimate sacrifice . . . the blessing of their presence is cause for celebration. 

When I was a young cadet at The Citadel, one of my military instructors was an Army major named Joe Trez. He was a Vietnam veteran, and memories of Vietnam were very fresh in his mind.  

One day he walked up to the blackboard and wrote, Those who serve their country on a distant battlefield see life in a dimension that the protected may never know.

He demanded that we memorize that statement, leaving us sitting in silence for one hour.  I did memorize it, but did not fully understand it until during my service in Desert Storm I lost a friend to war.  

Major Trez was right.

If I permit the eyes of my mind to focus, I see her.  If I permit the ears of my heart to listen, I hear her. And I celebrate her life. 

Not far from where Major Howie fought to win back France, one stubborn yard at a time, there was a 23-year-old medic from Wheatfield, Indiana, named Mac Lawrence.  

Mac hit the beach on the second wave at Omaha, with only a red cross on his shoulder to protect him.  He fought to save his buddies one wounded man at a time.  

For Staff Sergeant Lawrence, as for the nation, there was so much at risk.  On that beach there was no retreat, no cover, no respite.  

Mac survived D-Day.  He went on to earn two Silver Stars, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts before Europe was liberated.  

He dedicated his life to others as a teacher in Francesville, Indiana, and raised his family.

Mac died last year; I remember him well.

He, and thousands like him, stormed onto the exploding beaches of Northern France or jumped into its tracer-filled skies.  

Step by step, mile by mile, they gave new meaning to heroism by giving new hope to a continent enslaved.  

American soldiers on D-Day came to a land they had never seen to fight for a people they had never met.  They fought for no bounty of their own and they left freedom in their footsteps.  

And who can doubt that those who fell, then and in the bloody months ahead, earned a rest and a reward far beyond the bittersweet glories of this world?  

We are still awed by the scope of their sacrifice, stunned by their courage.

So many are now silent forever.  But are they?  Again, if I permit the eyes of my mind to have a vision, I can see them.  If I permit the ears of my heart to listen, I can hear them. 

As you walk these grounds, as you look over the final resting places the white crosses, the white Stars of David what are your senses?  What do you see there? What do you hear there?   

These souls lived.  I see and hear them say:  We were proud to be here. Our lives were good, and what we did here mattered.  And in exchange, we ask that you fully live your lives as free men and free women.  

Breathe the free air, and be strong and vigilant to ensure tomorrow’s generations share in blessings that are yours today. In that manner . . . live.

We now reach to you through the sounds of a trumpet in the playing of Taps, and honor you with the volley from our guns for it is up to us, the living, who are entrusted with something very precious: freedom, won by champions.  As we acclaim their cause, let us also celebrate that these men and women lived and forever honor their duty, courage, and sacrifice in the name of freedom.

May God be with them, their families and;

May God bless America, and may God bless France.

###

 

More information about hearings, legislation, and other activities of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs can be found on our award-winning Website: www.veterans.house.gov

ATTENTION READERS

We See The World From All Sides and Want YOU To Be Fully Informed
In fact, intentional disinformation is a disgraceful scourge in media today. So to assuage any possible errant incorrect information posted herein, we strongly encourage you to seek corroboration from other non-VT sources before forming an educated opinion.

About VT - Policies & Disclosures - Comment Policy
Due to the nature of uncensored content posted by VT's fully independent international writers, VT cannot guarantee absolute validity. All content is owned by the author exclusively. Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, other authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners, or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images are the full responsibility of the article author and NOT VT.
Previous articleMilitary mom’s Web site grows
Next articleMillion Veteran March on Washington DC – 8 June 2005