I just finished watching the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, so it seems like the right time to tell you about my uncle’s book, Normandy to the Bulge: an American Infantry GI in Europe During WWII by Richard D. Courtney. I had read the book when it was first published by Southern Illinois University Press in 1997, fifty-one years after his service ended, and my eyes were opened for the first time to the sacrifices the greatest generation made for our country. After I finished publishing All on Account of You on Lulu, I realized that I had to help get my uncle’s book back into print.
Normandy starts off with the excitement of a young man just graduating from high school and starting off to war. It goes through his grueling basic training, then his passage on the ship on his way to Europe. The mood changes as he and his fellow soldiers realize for the first time that they could be in real danger. The action begins as they exit their landing craft onto the beach at Normandy in France. Over the next two-and-a-half years, he loses dear friends and has many close calls, but his faith gets him through even the worst of it. He is involved in the liberation of more than one concentration camp, and he and another soldier accept the surrender of the 11th Panzer Division at the end of the war. He comes home much wiser but, surprisingly, not bitter. He is grateful to be alive and to be back home with his family. He cherishes his country and the freedom he helped to protect.
I re-published my uncle’s book for him last November, just in the nick of time. He’s 82, and not long after he got books in hand and starting selling again, he lost his voice. He is now in a rehab center after a lengthy surgery for thyroid cancer. His recovery has been fraught with complications but, tough guy that he is, he’s giving it his all. He still has a tracheotomy and can’t speak yet, but my aunt called a few weeks ago to order more books for him. She says he uses a white board to write on, and told her that he could still sell to his visitors, and to the medical staff. His six sons and one daughter are visiting as often as they can.
Last fall, before he lost his voice, Uncle Dick was interviewed about his combat experiences, and the writing of his book, by The Bob and Tom Show in Indianapolis, the number one syndicated radio show in America. He was supposed to do a live show with them during the winter. Because he could no longer speak, the show played part of the taped interview, and put some audio clips, his picture, and a link to the book on their website. His books are now selling very well online.
If you have a moment, listen to the audio clips. If his story isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.
On this Memorial Day 2008, God Bless all of our vets and their families.
(Previously posted at Quite Something)