Youth and D Day vets

#1
Sometimes it seems that young people do not grasp the courage of the veterans of an older generation. Yesterdays Boston Herald had an article about a young woman going off to study in France who clearly is very proud of her D Day vet grandfather.

I was halfway through the article before I realized that the Paul Cook it referred to was the Chief Paul Cook who had sat through many meetings and conferences on public safety issues with me. He was a great fire chief, very tech savvy and is a really nice guy. Oddly, in all my conversations with me he never mentioned his experiences in Normandy.

The quote is long but I did not want to insert a link as the Herald pulls articles off the net after a few days.

D-Day vet’s granddaughter retraces his path
By Joe Fitzgerald | Saturday, January 19, 2008 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Columnists

Photo by John Wilcox

She has seen the fading photographs of Parisians embracing her grandfather, so the poignancy of her journey was not lost on Elyce Peterson as she flew to France yesterday to begin four months of studying at Universite Paul Cezanne Aix-Marseille.

The 20-year-old Gordon College junior, a Sharon native aiming for a career as a translator, is specifically planning a side trip to Normandy, where thousands of Americans, “who more than self their country loved,” laid down their lives when they were her age.

“I’ll be breathing the same French air my grandfather did,” she said, “but I’ll be seeing all of that beauty without any of the stress he and his comrades encountered. Because of them, I’m going to be breathing free air.”

Paul Cook, who enlisted in the Army in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, landed on Utah Beach with the 3110 Signal Battalion, where he survived the slaughter the Allies endured while advancing under furious enemy fire.

Months later, 40 pounds lighter, as he marched down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with the victorious American troops who liberated Paris, jubilant residents poured into the streets to hug, kiss and thank them.

It’s occurred to Peterson that some of the new friends she’s about to meet may, like her, be descendants of those who were on those streets that historic day.

“I’ll have a very strong sense of being the granddaughter of one of those soldiers,” she said. “I’ll also have a sense of carrying their good name and upholding their reputation, not wanting to do anything that might cause the French to think, ‘Oh, the Americans have changed so much; they do not remember their history or ours.’

“I want to make sure they know we remember it very well. My cousins and I grew up hearing stories of the occupied France he saw when he got there; we also grew up in homes where Memorial Day is honored. So I’m bringing all of that with me. One of my favorite stories was the one about Strasbourg. That’s why I want to go there, too.”

Cook served 42 years with the Boston Fire Department, retiring as a district chief in 1988. That was the same year Strasbourg, a sister city to Boston, dedicated its new fire headquarters. Cook was sent there to represent Boston at the festivities, which included a banquet.

Just prior to introducing him, the emcee inquired, “Have you ever been to France before?”

“Once,” Cook replied. “June 1944. Normandy.”

When that answer was relayed to the audience, it triggered a thunderous ovation.

In an Oscar-winning performance in “Save the Tiger,” the late Jack Lemmon, portraying a World War II vet, ruefully recalled taking a business trip to Milan.

“Then I flew to Rome and drove down to Anzio,” he said. “There’s a ridge there and the sand is all piled up like a dune. In 1944 that sand was muddy with blood. Last year it was covered with bikinis, sweating into the same sand that held all that blood.”

“It shouldn’t surprise you,” he was told by his laconic business partner. “Battlefields have a way of turning into resorts.”

Once held beneath the heels of the Nazis, France now welcomes the world to its shores.

“I’ll be staying with a French family to get a feel for what it’s like to rely on a language that’s not my own,” Peterson, a French major, explained. “I need to further my knowledge of its grammatical system and its vocabulary.

“But I have a pretty good knowledge of the history we share. That’s why I’m not only excited to be going there, but very proud, too.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1067522
 

Cutaway

LE
Kit Reviewer
#2
Elyce Peterson said:
I’ll also have a sense of carrying their good name and upholding their reputation, not wanting to do anything that might cause the French to think, ‘Oh, the Americans have changed so much; they do not remember their history or ours.’
The French try not to remember the facts about their history in WWII.

Once held beneath the heels of the Nazis, France now welcomes the world to its shores.
As well.

Elyce Peterson said:
I’ll be staying with a French family to get a feel for what it’s like to rely on a language that’s not my own
German presumably.
 

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