FARMINGTON — A small group of veterans, relatives and community members braved 90 degree temperatures at noon Sunday, June 6, to remember D-Day.
Veterans Douglas Hand and Rodney Titcomb served as color guard, marching the American and Veterans of Foreign War flags to the middle of Center Bridge.
Gordon Webber, commander of James A. McKechnie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10881, thanked those who came.
“I remember some of the guys I’ve been around,” he said. “Francis Paling, Maynard Phillips, Norman (Ferrari) and Bob (Cox). The stories they’ve told me.”
Webber then shared information about Sgt. Bill Guarnere, the son of immigrants who had nine siblings. Hours before the D-Day invasion Guarnere grabbed the wrong jump jacket and from a letter in it accidentally learned his brother Henry had been killed in Cassino. He wasn’t supposed to be told until afterwards.
“In all of human history, there may never have been a more motivated man at a more pivotal moment to throw out of a plane into the heart of enemy-occupied territory to begin the largest invasion that mankind had ever seen,” Webber read from information provided him.
It noted Guarnere ended up in “Easy Company” of the 506th, which later came to fame in the book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. The men went through five months of hellish physical and mental conditioning and only 1,500 of the 5,000 who first joined made it through. Attached to the newly formed 101st known as the Screaming Eagles, their mission was to parachute inland and work back towards the beaches to take those causeways and destroy the German artillery positions aimed where Allied troops would land.
“I was wide awake, thinking about Henry,” Webber read from Guarnere’s thoughts of that time. “I was obsessed. I didn’t forget I was a sergeant, I had a squad to lead and there was a larger mission at stake.”
Webber shared that Guarnere was lucky not to have landed where he was supposed to. Those who landed in the correct spot were slaughtered instantly by the Germans.
As daylight broke, Guarnere and his mishmash of men came across a German gun emplacement containing four cannons pointed at Omaha Beach which Allied planners didn’t know about. The men were able to capture the first three and assisted later by other men, the fourth was also captured and all four destroyed.
“I’m not going to go on,” Webber said. Guarnere’s efforts and those of countless others led to victory that day, he noted.
Ferrari and Cox then dropped a wreath in the Sandy River and taps was played.
“We’re able to be here today because of D-day, that great victory,” Webber shared in his prayer.