I think it impossible even to imagine what is passing through his mind, friends, fears, hopes, youth, so much nostalgia.
As I wrote yesterday, we unconsciously got on the beaches of the Normandy landings just on 6th June, the anniversary. Yesterday, I honoured the dead, but there were, luckily, many survivors, and to my great pleasure, I discover many are still alive.
We look at them walking in their Veteran uniform, with all their honors on their breasts.
I don’t dare get closer, I admire them at distance, as if they were living monuments, close to 90 years of age, I’m afraid of disturbing them. I observe them fascinated while they amiably chat till high night just out the restaurant Le Papagall in Arromanches les Bains (Gold Beach).
We take courage and ask the waitress if we disturb them in case we sit and chat with them. It is useless indeed, since one of them is joking with Camilla through the window panes … we go out.
In a few seconds, I am amiably talking to Mr. Leonard Cox, 13th Platoon C. Company, English Veteran, 87 years old, landed on 6th June 1944 early in the morning, just after the very first soldiers, a real institution, a hero, insomuch as his portrait is painted on a wall of Arromanches.
Camilla and I are with a living monument, I don’t want our images take even for a second the stage from Leonard. Leonard tells me that he comes here in these days every year since 1946; he can’t but come, be what it be; he stops with pleasure to talk to people; he tells me about the dismay of those dreadful moments; we enter onto familiar terms with his accounts of 1944, but I don’t want to exaggerate, hence the chat is diverted to soccer; he tells me he is a fan of Fulham team, he asks about Camilla, I tell him she will start school in September, and he gives her these stickers for her books, not to forget …
We meet other Veterans, now I know it is enough for them just to hear a “Thank you!”, as their poem says, and when I happen to meet them, I get closer, I shake hands, I thank them, and I see them smile …
They ask us why we do it
Why we still parade
Now that we are getting older
And just a little frayed
It’s not for the sake of glory,
Or the medals on our chest
It’s simply that we are comrades
Who stood the final test.
On the 6th June that fateful day
A day that we will never forget
Many a lad laid down his life
And paid the final debt.
So when you see a Veteran
Give the man your hand
For the medals on his chest
Were won in foreign lands
And when God asks the question
Who are you my man
I will proudly answer
Sir, I am a Veteran
Again, thank you Leonard, thank you boys!