June 7 – Hobbs, NM. On Tuesday, June 6, a number of New Mexico Junior College students learned about a day that changed the course of history—not just from professors, books, and videos, but also from a handful of people who actually lived it.
To commemorate the historic date, also known as D-Day, NMJC’s Pannell Library hosted a reception for area veterans from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Students from NMJC history professor Dr. Patty Emmerich’s American history class also attended.
A commemorative documentary entitled “Ten Days to D-Day,” which was provided by The History Channel, was shown to the approximately 40 people in attendance, highlighting the events just prior to the decisive battle. Students were reminded that D-Day’s “Operation Overlord,” depicted in movies such as Saving Private Ryan, was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men.
When the battle was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; of those, more than 4,000 died. Yet somehow, due to extensive planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached, thus foreshadowing the end of Hitler’s dream of Nazi domination.
Following the video was an informal question-and-answer session between veterans and students, during which it was understood more fully the way in which pride of serving one’s country is sometimes interwoven with pain.
Upon being asked by a student how he felt about the current war in Iraq, Jim Miller, a veteran of the Korean War, explained, “It doesn’t make any difference whether I agree with Iraq or not. That is the Commander-in-Chief’s responsibility and his decision to make. A soldier has nothing to say about where he goes. If he didn’t want to go, he shouldn’t have joined,” he said. “Our military today is an all-volunteer service. There is no forced draft. These people have enlisted of their own accord.”
“It irks me . . . terribly to see mothers of soldiers do what they’ve done in their actions and so forth—have rallies and all this for their sons—and I can understand their anguish because their sons are gone, but let’s put it into perspective,” he said. Referring to Miller’s comment, one unidentified veteran later remarked, “That dishonors the son who died. When mothers do that, it dishonors the soldier’s life and his decisions and what he died for. It’s not right.”
One Vietnam veteran, Don Ingerson, explained to the students how painful it was to fight for the freedoms of those back home, only to be repaid with contempt. “Vietnam veterans, when we came back, had one thing to look forward to. We were going to be spit on, cussed at, and anything else you can think of. . . . Vietnam vets felt as though they were disowned by their own country.”
Charles J. Hoye, who currently serves as Chaplain for the American Legion, asked students and faculty to “Remember to pray for those who are fighting today, wherever they are.” Hoye, who entered the U.S. Army in 1943 and served with the 444th Engineer Base Depot Company in England, brought World War II memorabilia to add to the Library’s display of books, videos, newspapers, and award-winning photographs from a 1944 LIFE magazine. In addition to a German officer’s sword, Hoye brought things such as postcards, dog tags, war bonds, a French language dictionary, patches, medals, and an American flag with only 48 stars. Picking up a ration book, Hoye explained how the stamps were used and even produced a few which were still intact.
Hoye also served as the Company Correspondent to Stars & Stripes as well as the Depot Correspondent to the Army Hometown News Service back in Kansas. Explaining that the uniform jacket he had brought for the event was called an “Ike” jacket (after then-President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower), Hoye proceeded to model the waist-length jacket, much to the appreciation of the NMJC faculty and staff in attendance.
According to Dr. Sharon Jenkins, Director of Pannell Library, the event was held to help remember and honor those who have served our country so that we might enjoy the rights and freedoms we have today.
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