June 6, 2014, marked the 70th anniversary since D-Day; a day that gave new hope to thousands. For me, 5 years old at the time, it was a confusing day.
We lived in the northern part of the Netherlands and I have vivid WWII memories. I can still feel the tensions of living in wartime. Dad woke us three children early that morning and took us to the neighbors who lived in a big farm house. As the eldest, I was given strict orders to look out for my siblings since there were many other children at the farm as well. Mom was still in bed, was she sick?
Confusion came when I saw another neighbor lady coming to be with mom while dad went for the doctor. Our parents never allowed us to go to those neighbors; they belonged to the NSB, those who collaborated with the Germans.
That afternoon all of the children were playing in the barn where there was still some hay remaining in the gully. We piled the hay in one place for the big boys to jump into from the loft.
The neighbor man, Mr. Hoekstra, and some other men were watching us but mostly they were in deep and excited conversation. I kept hearing a new word and wondered what it meant, “Invasie, Invasie”. At one point Dad entered the barn and was greeted with the same word, “Hallo, Albert, Invasie!! Now things are going to turn around.” Dad also became excited but I wanted to know where mom was. That is when I was told that we had a new baby sister.
I still remember Mr. Hoekstra telling the other men that Albert’s wife had a baby that day. They all congratulated Dad but then went back to talking about “Invasie” and Dad joined in. What did that word mean? I had to wait to ask Mom when Dad brought us home.
Mom was in bed and showed us the baby but she also was excited about “Invasie.” Mom told us the word meant invasion and explained that soldiers from America had invaded a country called France. Those soldiers were coming to help us. The neighbor had heard about it on a secret radio he was hiding from the Germans.
Wow, we were going to get help! Soldiers were coming to chase away the bad soldiers and we were going to be free again. Now I could be excited as well because I did not like to be afraid all the time; hearing bombs falling, seeing planes coming down or on fire, seeing my parents being afraid, or fearing for my uncles who were being chased from place to place.
Years later I learned that thousands of soldiers lost their life that day, June 6, 1944. O, how brave they were and what a debt we owe them. Never, never, never will we forget, nor can we allow history to forget. Those brave soldiers gave their life to stop the killing of millions of innocent people, their leaders filled with greed and hate. I have stood on the shores of Normandy and cried seeing row upon row of the white crosses for the fallen. And I cried with some of the survivors of that day, as they wept over their memories of fallen comrades. I can never thank any of them enough. Most of all, I thank the Lord God for allowing me to live in a land that is free. God has blessed America!
Anna De Jong