On this Veterans Day, for William Paul Geisler



My father, William Paul Geisler, was a veteran of World War II.  He had been a supply officer in the European theater.  He charged Utah Beach with his men on D-Day +3, and he frequently told me stories about training in England, landing in France, and marching to Belgium.  His stories ranged from terrifying to hilarious, but he always underplayed his involvement.  The limp he brought home with him from Germany was just a part of the dad I knew.

When Dad was 89, I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday.  After some thought, he said he wanted to go back to Utah Beach.

Since this was a major milestone birthday, my husband and I decided to retrace Dad’s 1942 steps with him.  He had shipped with the troops on the Queen Mary I, so in honor of his first trip, we booked passage on the Queen Mary II. While on board, my father (with his usual wry humor) told the waiters that the food was much better on this ship than the last time he crossed the Atlantic; he said he liked the accommodations better, too.

After our five days at sea, we spent nearly a week in London, wheeling Dad in his wheelchair all around town and spending days in the Churchill Museum, the British Museum, and their War Museums.  Dad never complained about the bumps or vibrations from the sidewalk.  He was thrilled to be back, and so were we.  Dad’s stories and memories were unceasing.

London was exciting, but the best part was yet to come.  We took a fast ferry to Normandy, where we rented a car and drove to the Utah Beach Museum.  Upon arrival, the museum curator asked whether Dad had been with the invasion.  When he answered “Yes – the 106th Division,” the curator smiled and told us to enjoy the museum and he would catch up with us later.

We wheeled Dad throughout the exhibits.  He sighed deeply as we stared at the black and white photos of the barbed wire and blockades that the German army had built along the beach; we saw photos of the young victors, smiling broadly after they cut their way through and survived.  We saw piles of weapons and dead bodies.  Very sobering, indeed.

Moments later, the curator reappeared.  He clapped his hands to get the attention of the other visitors, and waited for the small crowd to gather.  He said he had something important to give my father. 

The curator hung a medal of honor around Dad’s neck and presented him with a plaque with Dad’s name and his division number.  He shook Dad’s hand with dignity and said “On behalf of France, I thank you.  You changed our lives.”

The small crowd applauded and cheered.  I wiped away my tears.  And my almost-90 year old dad looked so very proud.

To all of our veterans, my humble thanks for your service and your sacrifice.

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