|U.S. Army CSM (Ret.) Bill Ryan (FL, 2006)|
(I felt quite Alex J. Cavanaugh-ish for at least a full day and even wondered if Elise Fallson would make me a Mini-Mark… until I realized I would sound like a small store :(
From those in the Blog Blitz army who answered the call of Allied Supreme Commenter Gen. Donald L. Hammons – to the “civilians” who follow my blog on a regular basis, your response was amazing – and Bill was truly appreciative when I talked to him.
I didn’t mention it, but for the last seven years, I’ve made it an annual tradition to call Bill on D-Day. (Normally, he’s in Normandy or somewhere else – he’s always invited to related events in France, England, and Holland – but at least I can leave a voicemail expressing my appreciation for his service.)
When I called this past Thursday, I was batting .142 (1 for 7), but I scored a home run when, to my delight, Bill answered the phone.
However, instead of being happy, I immediately asked why wasn’t he over in Normandy? (I’m such a dork, sometimes.)
“Well, it’s only the 69th anniversary, the big one is next year,” Bill said. “But I’ll be heading to Holland in September.”
|U.S. Paratroopers drop into Holland, Sept. 1944.|
Now, I’m nobody’s big gurl’s blouse, but I gasped (just like they do in the movies.)
“No way,” I said, holding my breath, because there was no way, was there?
“When are you going to be there?” I asked.
“I’ll be in Nijmegen the second week of September. Why?”
(I skipped the gasp and went straight for the high-pitched squee… which may have perturbed this old warrior, but he’s a good ol’ sport, is our Bill, so he ignored my extended use of the higher decibel table.)
“Bill, I’ll be in Amsterdam the same week (my dad and I have a long-standing vacation rendezvous.) Nijmegen is only a couple of hours away by train.”
“Well that’s great to hear. We should plan to me--”
I ran over his invitation like a starved ‘80s groupie at a Depeche Mode concert.
“Bill, would it be OK if I tagged along to observe some of the official events you’ve got going on? Promise I won’t be a pain,” I said, snapping into full-on reporter mode. “Just me, my camera and a notepad. Two notepads. Max.”
“Mark, it would be a pleasure, especially after hearing about your post – and that so many people responded,” said Bill from a phone in Melbourne, Florida, as we contemplated meeting in the historic Dutch city of Nijmegen, which is more than 7,300 miles away from Honolulu.
After a few minutes, we agreed to swap travel itineraries and call again soon to firm up the plans.
After sending Bill my best wishes, I put the phone down – and the first thing I did was do the giddy dance made famous (for me) by Laura Linney in Love Actually.
So, now, thanks to all of YOU who responded to the post, I’ve the chance to spend the day with “the other Private Ryan” (and hopefully a bunch of other WWII veterans) as they participate in official ceremonies remembering Operation Market Garden, (September 17 – 25, 1944.)
I flopped on the couch and contemplated the possibilities as a kid-in-the-candy-store smile spread across my face like a slow Hawaiian sunrise.
This is going to be fun.