World War II veteran Bob Kauffman of Emmaus recently returned from his 13th visit to Europe. He’s always found these trips to his old battlefields rewarding, but this time something happened that especially gratified him.
He had gone to Normandy, where he was wounded in 1944, and as he’s always done, he visited the Normandy Cemetery. He was accompanied by his sister’s grandson, Eric Fleming, who wanted to see the places where Bob had served with the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.
Eric wanted to shoot video of Bob sitting on the stone wall overlooking Omaha
Beach, but gave up after two tries because of interruptions from passers-by. Cemetery staff members who recognized Bob asked him to stay and join in the lowering of the flag, a ceremony he had been part of last year. He accepted the offer.
Meanwhile, Eric spoke with one of the cemetery’s directors and arranged to have
Bob make a speech immediately afterward.
With the waves breaking in the background, Bob told about 50 people how those waves represented the tears of a nation weeping for its young, how they’re God’s eternal reminder of the enormity of the price paid for our freedom. “This Normandy Cemetery should be my address,” he said.
Tears and handshakes and many “thank yous” followed.
A student on the Normandy Allies International Experience shot video of Bob’s speech and posted it on YouTube. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDbdNbmteHY
Dwight Anderson, director of visitor services at the Normandy American Cemetery, wrote to tell Bob that Max Cleland, a disabled and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. senator from Georgia who is now secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, had seen the video and wanted to contact him.
“What happened at the Normandy Cemetery was just plain incredible,” Bob emailed me. “Just to be recognized by Max Cleland was beyond my comprehension.”
Bob wrote a book about being a teenage soldier, The Replacement. He also wrote an account that ran in three parts in The Morning Call’s “War Stories: In Their Own Words” series in 2004. Here are the links: