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Monday, June 10, 2013

D-Day Update (& How I became a Kid in a Candy Store)


U.S. Army CSM (Ret.) Bill Ryan (FL, 2006)
I have a neat update, but first can I say a very *Special* thanks to everyone who contributed to the more than 165 comments on my recent D-Day post about D-Day veteran and friend, U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) William “Bill” Ryan.

(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.



Tonja Drecker said...

Holy crow! That IS great news. I'd say you've left Alex in the dust this time (sorry, Alex :)).

Tim Knight said...

That's amazing. Please pass on our thanks to all the veterans for the incredible job they did and the great example they have set for us all.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's really cool the two of you will be there at the same time - and that you'll be able to witness the events with Bill.
If Elise makes a Mini-Mark, then he and Mini-Alex just might have to get together.

Yolanda Renée said...

So totally awesome! Congratulations! I'd love to see that happy dance, and what in the world is a squee? I've seen that everywhere, and can't imagine anyone making that sound. Need to hear it for real.

And a Mini-Mark, why not!

Elise Fallson said...

Well, you already know I think it's awesome you're going to meet up with Bill. As for Mini-Mark...I don’t know, I've never made a bald leprechaun before...then again I guess it can’t be that hard. :P You know, after I made mini-Alex, my kids put in an order for their very own mini-ninjas--they’re still waiting.
I'll see what I can do. (=
Oh, and I also accept donations. (((;

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

That's sounds amazing! But I missed the original post, somehow! I'll go find it now. :)

Melissa said...

How cool is that!!! *sqweeeee* And, my gosh! 70th anniversary? Dang. That's a lot of years!

Hmm... We could call you 'Maxi Mark,' but that would sound even worse. :P

Unknown said...

That is awsome!
And it does sound like it will be a lot of fun.

Meradeth Houston said...

Awesome!! I hope you'll fill us in on how it goes!

Johanna Garth said...

That is so cool! And I'm sure your squee was very manly!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

That's awesome. Kind of like if one of my fave authors just happened to be in my area and I could actually talk to them. Congrats on having great luck Mark.

Leigh Covington said...

LUCKY!!! This is amazing news!!

M Pax said...

What a neat guy to know, Mark. All that history.

Unknown said...

congratulations! What a set up...serendipitous!

The Words Crafter said...

Oh, YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's so incredible!!!!!! I'm so happy for you. You know it's going to take about a century to get here, though, right? Anticipation is a kicker :))
Expecting LOTS of pics!

Erin L. Funk said...

That's awesome news! Hope you two have a great visit in Holland!

Sabrina A. Fish said...

Holy Score! How awesome. I'd of done a happy dance at that moment for sure.

And I cannot wait to see that bald leprechaun...just sayin'!!! *wink*

Weaver said...

I'm so excited for you. Take lots of pictures that you can share with us!

Martin Willoughby said...

Wish I'd come over a few days ago.

He's the kind of man we should all appreciate. They kept us safe. I look forward to reading about the events to mark Market Garden.

Amy Jarecki said...

Aloha, Mark! Somehow, I can't see you doing a squee :-) Very cool that Bill is going to Normandy for the 70th. Wouldn't it be something if you could go too?

Anonymous said...

Aw, that's great, Mark.

Morgan said...

Mark, I don't believe in coincidences... this is *really* neat. Really, really neat.

And I'm TOTALLY LAUGHING with the "MiniMark/minimart" reference... *shakes head*

Unknown said...

Wow! That's exciting! I'm sure you'll have some great stories to write about!

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh that sounds wonderful! I can't wait to experience the trip vicariously through you.
If you had a Mini Mark I could knit him a mini Doctor Who scarf too!

Nicole said...

That is so cool, Mark! Carry all of our thanks to Bill and others as well.

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