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Remembering D-Day & 'the greatest generation'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by Susan Junker
World War II veterans who attended the recent Veterans Day celebration on the lawn of the Bandera County Courthouse included, from left, Dan Chant, Carroll Ballard, Stanley Johnson, Richard Young, Viola Swift and Norman Grigsby with Robert Shaw and George Miller in the back row. The Courier thanks you all for your service.

Photo by Carol King
Doug King delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Bandera Honors Veterans ceremony that centered on the "Band of Brothers" tour that he and his wife, Carol, participated in last June.

(More information and photos from the 2015 Bandera Honors Veterans ceremony will be included in the Thursday, Nov. 26, edition of the Bandera County Courier.)

Doug King, former commissioner for Bandera County Precinct 4, delivered a clearly emotional keynote address during the Bandera Honors Veterans ceremony, held Saturday, Nov. 14. Members of the community filled the front lawn of the courthouse to pay homage to members of America's Armed Services - past and present.
A self-described "history buff," King recounted the recent "Band of Brothers" tour, originated by the late Stephen Ambrose, author of "Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest." For three weeks last June, King and his wife, Carol, visited England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany, following in the 1944-1945 footsteps of the 101st Airborne - aka "The Band of Brothers."
"Our son, Phillip, is currently serving with the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell, Kentucky," King said. "He has been deployed twice to Afghanistan. Words cannot describe how proud we are of him."
According to Carol King, the most moving portion of the couple's journey was spent on Utah and Omaha beaches in Normandy, France. King's recounting echoed that of President Ronald Reagan's in his poignant "Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech that commemorated the 40th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1984.
"While standing on the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc overlooking Utah Beach, I tried to imagine the Rangers tasked to scale those cliffs and take out the big guns trained on Omaha Beach," King recalled. "One by one as they got to the top and rolled over the edge, they were shot and killed. But that did not stop the others from trying. It comes down to duty and training."
Eventually the Rangers prevailed, but at a great cost. Of the 225 Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, only 90 survived June 6, 1944.
King also noted that when Gen. Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to go ahead with the D-Day invasion, there was no "Plan B" if the invasion failed. "It was estimated it would take another year to year and a half to gather more equipment and train the men. That was time the Allies did not have," King said.
The Kings visited Omaha Beach at low tide in conditions similar to those on June 6, 1944. The span was nearly 400 yards from the water's edge to the end of the beach. "All I could visualize were those brave soldiers trying to run across the heavily mined beach with heavy gear - all in the crosshairs of the well-fortified German guns. Many brave men died that day," King said.
After learning about the extent of that day's casualties, Eisenhower said, "Too many brave men have gone to be with God, and the likes of which will never see this earth again."
The tour also included visits to the major battlefields where the 101st Airborne fought, including the Battle of the Bulge in the Arden Forest near Bastogne Belgium, as well as the American Cemetery in Normandy, where over 9,000 American soldiers are interred. The tour culminated at the Dachau Concentration Camp and Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Experiences at Dachau and Eagle's Nest left the couple with "sadness in their hearts" because they realized they were "walking in the footsteps of evil."
However, as everyone is aware, global evil didn't cease with the destruction of Hitler's Third Reich. As King noted, "My wife and I feel blessed to have been able to go on this tour when we did. The world is changing and with the events yesterday in Paris, it is clear there is still evil in the world."
He concluded, "I never had the honor of serving in the military, but I am honored when I am in the presence of those who have. Thank you for your service and for allowing me to speak here today. Good bless you all and God bless the United States of America."