On one amazing day, June 6th 1989 an old friend of the family, Paul Thome was visiting my mom and dad in their retirement home in Vacaville, CA. while I also happened to be there. Paul and his wife Lily traveled the world several times a year (Space A) and, being notoriously cheap, had developed a network of friends and former colleagues to stay with while on location.
I had known Paul since I was three years old and thought of him as a funny and quirky man with a bad toupee he wore over a completely bald head. He and my dad had known each other since meeting in 1957 as teachers at Kitzingen Elementary school. Both he and my dad worked closely for the rest of their DoDDS careers.
This particular visit was on the 45th anniversary of D-Day and Paul, for some reason needed to get something from the hardware store. I offered to drive him down to the local Ace store. We were wandering the isles when we both overheard a conversation between a customer and a store employee about D-Day on the other isle. Paul’s ears perked up and we went over to join in the conversation. Apparently Paul and the other two men had landed on the same beach at Normandy! Their conversations became very animated as they shared stories and details of the units they were with. Paul asked them what wave they were on and both said the third. Paul said he was on the first wave. Come to find out, Paul had fought his way through the whole war, from landing in North Africa, Anzio up through Italy up to the surrender in 1945. Also I found out he had started as a private in WWII and retired as a reserve Lt Col.
Dad knew very little of Paul’s military service other than he had served in the army during WWII, and seemed to have a very good rapport with the Army. He apparently was a comshaw expert. Like many of his great and noble generation who gave themselves to the horrors of World War II to save the world, Paul was not very talkative about his war experiences. This one particular moment was the exception. Unfortunately, many stories of their heroism and sacrifice will be forever lost or relegated to odd photographs, half remembered fragments, and inferences gained from similar passing conversations and observations. I feel honored to have been there to hear these soldiers tell of their great moment in history