Salute to a Senator, and His Wing Man, 70 Years Since D-Day

In honor of South Carolina Senator John Drummond, I share this. He told me this one day before we stepped into an event together. I tell it here, filling in the gaps left by his humility.

Flying missions that helped save the French countryside from Nazis ravaging, John Drummond became a young hero, and eventually a prisoner of war. One of his wing men was a 19 year old kid with a name as long as he was tall. No one wanted to pronounce it, so the unit just called him K-Kid. in the parlance of flight, it fit.

Airman Drummond, leading a formation in his P-47D Thunderbolt (with Raid Hot Mama painted on her nose), looked to his right and saw K-Kid’s plane humming sturdy and right where it belonged. He glanced away and glanced back in a matter of seconds. Where the plane had been there was only a spore of smoke, trailing downward. K-Kid was gone. Shot down. Drummond never saw him again.

A few years ago, Airman Drummond, then a lauded senator, a statesman known for building coalitions and other great things, returned to France, where he is celebrated as a conqueror to this day. Parties are thrown for such men. Before the grayed and lively sage came home, he wanted to take a walk. Wanted to step into the hallowed cemetery at Normandy. See if he could find the cross bearing the long name of the lost boy he knew as K-Kid.

It took a while, but the walk paid off, and well. Soon, Senator Drummond stood on his knees on K-Kid’s grave. Knelt in the quiet and grieved. He grieved his friend in ways years will never intrude upon. In a union of souls. A man above, a man below, not fully separated by the ground. They had a time of it, saving the world. In that grief, I believe time was set aside. Surfing an aged man’s tears, they were boys again.

Time is run amok on those World War II boys. Stealing them from us by many hundreds each day now. The time for final salutes is now.

Friday, June 6, 2014, the world turns eyes and ears to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. That cemetery will feel the feet of honored guests, who will look across the white markings of lost boys who served as men. Who sacrificed the remainder of their manhood so that we may be where we are, as we are, this minute.

But the guests of true honor walk that sanctuary ground in spirit. They haunt us beautifully. To us, in the sea whispers rising off the beach far below, I believe the ghosts of those boys thank us for living up to what they did. Their lives ended so that we may have one.

What we do with that life now, how we use it with honor, is freely up to us. Ours is a legacy, free for the making. Our freedom, of every kind, should ring in our daring fully to LIVE.

Thank you veterans. Thank you all, for what you did, what you were willing to do, and thank you for what you live with. Normandy went home with many of you. Normandy and many other then-awful places and times, you carry the bloody ground of these with you. May you know peace. Gratitude. May the love of many grateful nations hunt you down, find you, and salute you. Embrace you. Listening for what echoes in the hollows of your hearts.

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