With Veterans Day coming up on Nov. 11, my mind went back a few years to 1962.
I was serving in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Etain Air Force Base in France. I had the chance to walk the beach at Normandy, and I thought about the cost of freedom paid on June 6, 1944, during the Allied drive to liberate France, the largest invasion by sea in history.
On D-Day, as the invasion was called, British, Canadian and U.S. forces secured several beachheads on the Normandy Coast under the command of General Eisenhower. Yes, the cost of freedom was high, but after this bloody but successful attack, the Allied offensive moved to roll back German occupying forces.
By the end of August, Paris was liberated, and by September Allied troops had crossed the German border for a final push toward Berlin.
Also, I remember in that same year, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis when my base went on alert. Hard to believe it’s been 55 years, but I – like many other service men – stood ready for war if necessary.
The most dangerous challenge from the Soviets came in October 1962 as U.S. reconnaissance planes discovered that Russians were building underground sites in Cuba for the launching of offensive missiles that could reach the U.S. in minutes.
Kennedy responding by announcing to the world that he was setting of a naval blockade of Cuba until the weapons were removed. I remember my captain telling me a full-scale nuclear war between the superpowers seemed likely if the Soviet ships attacked the U.S. naval blockade.
These were days of tension for this Newnan boy, a long way from home as Khrushchev finally agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba in exchange for Kennedy’s pledge not to invade the island nation. The Cuban Missile Crisis had a sobering effect on both sides.
So on this Veterans Day 2017, the price for freedom at times has been high, but thank God we are free. As a vet, I salute those who paid and are paying the price. God bless America!
Joe W. Strickland is a retired minister, substitute teacher and proud American veteran. He lives in Newnan.