Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Europe. Not many veterans are left that participated in this historic operation. I had the pleasure to meet one, talk to him and get to know him some time ago.
From 1991-1995 I was stationed at Fort Devens Ma. My wife is Native American and during that period of her life she used to love to dance at Powwows. We would go to a powwow somewhere in New England every weekend. Being regular powwow attendees we got to know some of the others that hit the circuit and they became familiar faces. One of these was an old gentleman named Onkwe Tase. Onkwe was in his 70's or 80's at the time. He was still in great shape and would stride around the powwow barechested even in the cold weather. The one dance that I would participate in was the Veteran's dance. It is basically where all the veteran's would process around the dance circle and post the US flag and MIA flag at the beginning of the powwow. Onkwe would also participate. Onkwe and I got to know each other and we talked about the Army over the camp fire and as we sat in lawn chairs watching the powwow.
Over the 3 years I knew him I learned this. He was a Mohawk living in Lowell Ma and his English name was Ed Guilliamete. He had been a police officer for 30 years in Lowell after the WWII but was now retired. On D-day he was a member of the 4th Infantry Division and had landed on Utah beach.
Onkwe didn't talk much about the fighting itself he preferred to laugh about stuff like the time they found a bunch of french porn magazines in a cottage or that they used condoms over the rifle muzzles to keep the water out during the landing. He would talk about all sorts of things mixing them with stories of his grandkids and time as a cop. Its been over 20 years now since I met him and my memory is starting to dim. Age is starting to catch up with me as it caught up with him and I doubt he is still alive. We lost touch after I was transferred to another base. I sure do wish I could have told him good bye and thanked him again for his service. We have lost almost all of the brave men who participated in this greatest of military operations but we are richer for their bravery and sacrifice.
Thanks Onkwe my life was better for having met you