70 years since the storming of Normandy

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 troops, which included 13,000 paratroopers, listened to Dwight D. Eisenhower say, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you… Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.”

The task of these men, and the many who followed behind them, was to end the war.

About 20 days after this speech was made a soldier named Alvin J. Hedrick stepped onto Omaha beach in the hopes of achieving that goal.

That man was my grandfather.

Like many who fought in World War II, his was an amazing story. It is one I share as often as I can, but a tale too long for this column.

After my grandfather returned home, he rarely spoke of his experiences and instead focused on being a father and husband. After 50 years, he finally shared his story.

He graciously shared it with me.

It was something we bonded over until his death a few years ago. It was the greatest experience to be able to go to the opening of the National World War II Museum with him in 2000. I was proud to watch as people gathered around as he shared his story with my family.

My grandfather, like many of the men who fought in World War II, would never call himself a hero nor boast about the things he did during the war. But to me, that is the sign of a true hero.

My grandfather may not have had a book written about him or was portrayed in a mini-series or documentary, but he was a hero.

He fought in a war. He fought to return home and used that gift of returning home alive, to become a great father and grandfather, which he was.

So thank you to my personal hero and to all the other heroes who took up arms during World War II.

Thank you for embarking on that “great and noble undertaking.”