USAREUR CG honors the fallen during Normandy Memorial Day remembrance

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France -- Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. Army Europe (second from right), Mr. Edward O'Brien, U.S. Consul of Rennes (third from right), and other distinguished guests from the Normandy region prepare to lay wreaths in honor of fallen service members during the 2011 Memorial Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, here May 29. (Photo by Capt. Audrey Gboney-Leon)

USAREUR CG honors the fallen during Normandy Memorial Day remembrance

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
May 29, 2011

NORMANDY, France – U.S. Army Europe's top leader paid tribute to the many U.S. Soldiers and allies, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, during a Memorial Day ceremony in France, May 29.

Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling spoke to an audience of more than 2,000 individuals who traveled to Normandy American Cemetery to pay their respects to the young men who stormed Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, turning the tide in World War II.

During his speech, Hertling stated with all his years of military and combat experience he couldn't envision what it was like that morning. "Their mission--upon which all others depended—was to climb the sheer cliffs and destroy those enemy guns," he said. "That was key to securing this beach."

Hertling described how 225 U.S. Rangers attacked the cliffs at Pointe Du Hou and bravely fought the enemy who were shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. After two days of fighting, only 90 were able to bear arms. Mere men, he called them, just like the young 18, 19, 20 year-olds fighting today's wars, called to do the impossible.

"They were the ones who helped seize back the continent of Europe," he said. "Many of them lie here today, and I believe they can hear us speak."

The Rangers were not the only ones, he continued. There was John Pinder, Jr, a radio technician with the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, who was gravely wounded while trying to deliver vital radio equipment to the beach. Three times he braved the surf, under enemy fire, to recover parts and equipment, and eventually establishing radio communication before being shot a third time and killed.

Hertling said there were many others that day, including the many allies who fought alongside the US Soldiers on the beaches, through the Bocage, into the Huertgen, over the Rhine, and to the Elbe and the Torgau.

"Our allies were with us, as they always are in each fight for dignity," he said. "The men-from every nation-who landed here at Normandy and fought through a continent believed what they were doing was right."

It was traits like duty, selfless service and personal courage that kept and helped the men then push through and prevail and what unites the US and its allies today, said Hertling.

"The same principles that strengthened the allies then at Normandy, bind the allies together today," he said. "In the face of today's challenges, as we continue to struggle up our own 'Pont Du Hoc' we know the task is hard, but it is not impossible."