The date is June 6th, 1944. The weather is stormy and rainy. I am sitting in small landing craft with about 20 men. This includes my best friends, Robert Johnson and Joe Manning. As we approach the shore, we say our final prayers, asking God to protect us during the battle. I think about my family back in New York. My wife, Julie, and our three children, Tyler, Katherine and John. I miss them terribly. Two men siting behind me get seasick. This leaves the boat smelling like vomit. The waves are huge, about six feet in height. We receive the signal to jump into the icy waters.
As I land in the water, I feel the heaviness of my uniform and the weapons that I carry. It is like an anchor is pulling me under. Nearby, some men are drowning and sinking lifelessly to the bottom of the deep, dark sea. I lift my head out of the water and gasp for air. I already hear gun shots nearby. I swim towards the shore in an ocean of blood. “This is it,” I think to myself. I quickly find Robert and Joe. I see one of our ships, landing craft number 16, hit a Tri-Pod Obstacle. The ground shakes as the ships comes in contact with the obstacle. The war has just begun, and already hundreds of our soldiers lay dead on the ground. I run through a maze of dead bodies with Joe and Robert by my side. I fire my gun at a German soldier who is surrendering. I hear someone screaming my name, “Help me, James!” He is bleeding profusely and I recognize his face. His name is Charles. I run over to Charles, trying not to get shot myself. When I get to Charles, he is already dead. I say a prayer for him and his family and run back to Joe and Robert.
Our job is to clear the way for the ships. We shoot at the hedgehogs blocking our ships way. A flamethrower explodes when a machine gun fires. “BOOM!” Another one of our ships is gone. Finally, we reach barbed wire. Robert and I cannot find Joe. “Come on! We have to keep going.”
“We can’t. I need to find him.”
“You’re crazy. We are so close to attacking the bunker.” I run from Robert and search for Joe.
“Joe!” I scream. No answer. The sounds of the gun shots drown out my voice. Then, I hear a man moaning, “Help me, help me.” He is lying on his back. I see his name in bold letters. It reads “MANNING”. I run over to Joe. “Joe, Joe what happened?” “I-I-I I got shot.” I look at Joe, blood gushing from his leg. I look for a first aid man to help assist me with Joe. I frantically look for someone. Joe is screaming in pain. After about 30 seconds, I cannot see anyone in sight.
Then I have an idea. There is a dead man next to Joe and I take his jacket and use it as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Joe is starting to have difficulty breathing. “C’mon buddy,” I say, starting to tear up. “Stay with me.” I lift my head up, searching for someone to help me. A bullet barely misses my head. I see a first aid man. He comes right over to me. He looks at Joe.
“There is no saving him,” the man says.
Time stops for me. I can not longer hear the sounds of bullets and bombs behind me. The soldier injects morphine into Joe’s leg. Joe and I have been friends since we were five years old. As I cry, the tears wash away some of the blood on my hand. Crying and a little shaky, I grab Joe’s hand and say, “Thank you for being my best friend. It has been an honor to know you.” I take off my helmet and place it over his heart.
“I-I-I…I-I-I will always remember you, James.”
Joe takes his last breath.
Those last few minutes I spend with Joe seem like hours. I see one of the bunkers go up in flames. I run to find Robert while staying low to the ground, trying to dodge the bullets. I shoot a couple of German soldiers along the way. My black shoes are stained red from the blood shed. “James, James!” I hear someone calling my name. I turn to see Robert.
“James! How’s Joe? Sorry I left you before.”
“He’s dead,” I respond, void of emotion.
There is a brief pause between us. “I’m sorry James.”
“Me too. I will miss him.”
There is no time to stop and think about Joe’s death. We must keep moving towards the bunker. Finally, we invade Bunker 167. As we walk inside, we shoot every German soldier in sight. “Get out, get out!” An American solider yells. He is about to blow up the bunker. Robert and I run out. As we leave, a German solider shoots me. I yell in pain. “James, James! Are you okay?” The bullet has pierced my left leg. Blood pools around my ankles. I cry out in pain. Robert quickly finds a first aid man to assist me. They wrap three towels around my leg to stop the bleeding. “We must carry him back onto the ship.” The first aid man says. Robert and the man carry me back to the ship, staying low to the ground so that they do not get shot. I am no longer aware of my surroundings. I feel extremely dizzy, and the pain from my leg is unbearable.
I remember waking up hours later in a hospital bed. “James, James,” I hear a voice calling. It is Robert. I look down at my leg. It is gone. “The surgeons had to amputate your leg. I’m sorry buddy.” Many emotions rush through my head.
Fear. Anger. Sorrow.
I know that I will never be the same again. “It’s okay,” I say to Robert. “It’s a small price to pay.” I remember why I joined the army, and let the words “freedom”, “honor”, and “United States” comfort me.