Not every soldier that stormed the beaches at Normandy, France on D-Day (June 6, 1944), carried a gun…or any other weapon. I’m not saying these men were more brave that their armed counterparts, because all of those men were targets. They all knew, going in that it was very unlikely that they would come home again. They were running onto an armed beach in broad daylight, with the plan of taking down the strongholds that existed there. The main difference between the armed soldiers and the medics was the inability to protect themselves. The medics weren’t there to fight. They were there to save. The were the only thing standing between the armed soldiers and certain death. Just the thought of that brings tears to my eyes. All the men who stormed those beaches faced almost certain death, and yet they knew they had to go. They couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t do their best, be it killing the enemy soldiers or saving the wounded soldiers.

Most soldiers are trained to shoot, fight, and kill the enemy, but a combat medic is very different. He is trained to do the exact opposite. The medics had no guns. They went in to “battle” unarmed, and their mission wasn’t to attack the enemy, it was to dodge the bullets that were flying everywhere and get to the soldiers who had been wounded. Then they tried to get them off the battlefield so they could treat their wounds, and hopefully save their lives. Sometimes, they had to treat them where they were. Bullets don’t distinguish between a soldier and a medic.

There are, of course, far too many medics who have bravely gone in to try to save other soldiers at the risk of losing their own lives. While the armed soldiers fight the battles, medics pick up the pieces during and after the battle. It’s the medics who gather up the belongings of those they cannot save, so they can be returned to the families. They don’t really have much time before they must move on to the next wounded soldier, and so often they grab the dog tags, because it is the only true way to know who this soldier was. It’s the only way to let their family know that their brave soldier gave the ultimate sacrifice in battle.

My dad, Staff Sergeant Allen Spencer was a top turret gunner and flight engineer in one of the B-17s that provided cover for the men as they stormed the beaches of Normandy that fateful day. My uncle, Jim Wolfe was one of the men below, storming the beaches. I don’t know if they knew each other then, but they would later, when my Uncle Jim married my dad’s sister, Ruth. It’s very hard to think about this battle, because so many lives were lost. I don’t know how anyone made it onto that beach without getting pelted with a barrage of bullets, but I am thankful for the medics who were there to try to pick up the pieces. Today marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day. From a grateful nation, we honor all who fought in that horrific battle. Very brave men all!!

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