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  • This photograph was part of a collection of 50 photos distributed in 1994 by the Associated Press in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of D-Day. The 50 photos were culled from thousands in the National Archives. The photo was chosen by my fellow editors at the Akron Beacon Journal who were putting together a special section on D-Day. I had been sick. I had had nothing to do with the special section. There was no identification on the picture. That my Dad, Frederick C. Gevalt, Jr., was in the picture was simply a matter of chance.

    This picture appeared in the newspaper where I worked on June 5, 1994, a day shy of the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I was stunned. The man on the far right was my father and I recognized him immediately. I fell into a chair in a heap. He'd died seven years previously and I missed him. And on that moment, I missed that he'd never told me the story of that day.

    What we new: He was a navy doctor, he was wounded in the early hours of the invasion; and he was 29 in this picture.

    I spoke with two of his friends and learned more. He landed on Omaha Beach 14 minutes after the first wave. Eisenhower had sent in the docs as a morale booster on the theory that if they were sending in the docs, it couldn't be that bad. On the way in, my father had to console a kid from rural Indiana who'd lost it and was screaming. My father settled him down and when they landed he and the kid jumped out together. The kid was killed instantly by a bullet to the head; my father dragged his body to the beach and yanked his dog tags. (Months later, he took a train to the kid's home and told his parents he'd died bravely.)

    In the first hours of battle, the Americans had knocked out the German guns. Check that; they missed one. As a new wave was landing, an 88 mm shell whistled in and hit one of the vessels. Bodies were everywhere. My father, close to the cliff, leapt up, yelling "Medics!" and rushed down to the wounded. Another 88 landed, hurtling a piece of shrapnel into his shoulder; knocking him out face down in the water. A medic pulled him out.

    Later, a friend, Dr. Joe Foley, was ordered down from another section of the beach to fix my father's shoulder and get him off the beach. Foley couldn't remove the metal so he dressed the wound. My father refused to be evacuated. "Your dad could be kind of stubborn," Foley told me. Yes, I know.

    Why, I asked him, did you guys never talk about it? "Talking about yourselves was, well, like bragging," he said. "Besides, anyone who wasn't there wouldn't really understand what we went through."

    Foley thought it was time for a little Shakespeare, so he quoted the soliloquy from Henry V, in its entirety, including these lines:

    "From this day to the ending of the world,
    We in it shall be remembered:
    We few we, happy few, we band of brothers;"
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