Emmett Dooley, a church member who was in the first wave of the Omaha Beach invasion, said Memorial Day should be a day of thanks. “Go to church and thank the Lord for saving us in World War II,” Dooley said in an interview.
He noted that the Allies’ massive invasion that started on D-Day (June 6, 1944) had a major impact on the war’s outcome. “If Hitler (had) had three more months, he would have had the atomic bomb,” Dooley said.
Charles B. Wilson, 80, who was at Utah Beach, recalled the sacrifices of fellow soldiers that day. “A lot of them didn’t come back,” he said.
Dooley remembered being under heavy German fire while in the barges headed for the shores of Omaha Beach. “It looked like it was raining bullets,” he said.
Both said Memorial Day celebrations are very important to the nation and its veterans.
“People should hang out a flag,” Dooley said. “This flag means a lot.”
Wilson said more veterans should participate in such celebrations. “I’d like to see every veteran there is gathered together today,” he added.
Wayne Parker, head of the Veteran’s Ministries at Dry Valley and a Vietnam veteran, coordinated the service, which honored all veterans. “It’s been so long overdue. We can’t do enough,” he said.
Church pastor Jimmy Weaver said Memorial Day often draws people to church. “It’s the very nature of giving,” he said. “That’s what Christ was about, and that’s what veterans were about. May God bless the soldiers of yesterday and today.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., and state Rep. Barbara Massey Reese, D-Menlo, attended the services, during which Gingrey presented plaques to the veterans of World War II and the widows and families of those deceased.
In remarks, Gingrey thanked the Trion veterans for their service as well as all the veterans of World War II. He added that he is pleased to see members of what many now call the “greatest generation” are now getting the recognition that he said they deserve.
Dooley said people pay more attention to Memorial Day today than in the past. He credited historically accurate films such as “Saving Private Ryan” as well as the new World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. “It may be the movies, I don’t know” Dooley said.
Dooley and Wilson agreed that some movies offer an idea of what the veterans actually went through during the war. “They can make it look real,” Wilson added.
Wilson, on the other hand, also believes that, while more people may celebrate the day, many see it more as a day for cookouts and parades than solemn remembrance. “They don’t take it as seriously anymore,” he said