Normandy, 1994

The word daddy felt foreign on my lips. I believe I had never used that word before.

“I am a high school teacher at the Taipei American School in Taiwan. My advanced-placement U.S. history class read your parents’ words, and yours. I suggested to my students that perhaps the best way to try to give something back to people like your parents would be by trying as much as possible to live as good, concerned American citizens who actively try to make America a better place. The immense loss that your family has endured for the last fifty years will not be forgotten. Your father and mother gave so much fifty years ago to make America a place where people who love can love for a lifetime and not have that time together cut short. My father also landed on those beaches in June 1944. Because of people like your father and mine, my own daughter will grow up in a better world than we would have had if the Nazis had prevailed in Europe. I thank you once again in the name of my daughter, Lara.”

Nancy Lynch Taipei American School, Taiwan

“I have read that of all the many terrors of the battlefield, the artillery barrage is the most hated and feared by the combat soldier. The reason for this is that the ordinary infantryman is helpless under artillery. There is absolutely nothing he can do but hunker down and pray that the next shell doesn’t land in his foxhole. It is purely a battle of nerves against the odds, and it occurs to me now that this was just the kind of war that Mrs. Elliott and her contemporaries fought every day. For the mother, the wife, or the daughter, the enemy was the war itself, and all she could do was wait out the barrage. She could not shoot back, and there was no foxhole deep enough for her to hide in. If the telegram did come, it had her name on it, and it was inevitably a direct hit. I would like to thank DeRonda Elliott for sharing with us her very private sorrow. At the very least she has given us a broader definition of the word veteran .”

Dale Gelineau North Hills, Calif.

“We can never make up for the violent loss of a parent, but if we can see the events that took our fathers in an unselfish manner, grace enters our hearts. We can love them for who they were and what they chose to do in their time. My father also wanted to come home. In a sense he is home, with me, my brother, my sister and my mother. The example of his life inspires us and touches us and our children.”

Robert J. Harding New York, N.Y.

“There is a plaque on the wall of the Georgetown University Hospital chapel listing the names of students who died in the war. I saw it many times when I was a student in the 1950s, and I always wondered about these people and those they left behind. It certainly is a strange world. Your father and all those other young men paid such a dreadful price to save the world from thugs, but you can read the newspapers fifty years later and wonder if we learned anything at all or if we are really worth saving.”

Dr. John R. Agnew Fort Myers, Fla.

“Your article moved me deeply and struck responsive chords in my own background. I am terribly sorry that your father did not survive the Normandy invasion. Mine returned, but we lost him later anyway, partly because of that war. My father, William Lloyd Tucker, was a tail gunner during 1944 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew six extra missions over the required thirty-three to obtain a special assignment as a gunnery instructor. Like many of his contemporaries, he returned an old young man. For the first year or so he suffered intermittent blackouts and nightmares. He developed a heart murmur and was plagued by a lifelong “nervous stomach.” Three weeks before his fiftieth birthday, in 1972, he died of an aortic aneurysm. We attribute his condition partly to a permanent intense anxiety caused by those bombing missions. Thank you for sharing your parents’ story with us. You have helped ensure that our own generation’s memory of that war does not fade.”

W. Jeffrey Tucker Foster City, Calif.