The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


June 8, 2014

OUR VIEW: Stories on D-Day veterans were inspiring, instilled pride

- — It was with great pride that we published the special D-Day edition on Friday to honor the men who took part in the invasion that turned the tide of World War II.

But it was also with great pride – and even greater sadness – that we republished the list of Mercer County and Brookfield servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in France between D-Day and the end of 1944.

The list was first run in The Herald on Aug. 14, 1945. And the fact that it included the names of 74 local casualties brings a stark reality about the seriousness of war. And that was only a portion of the deaths involving service people from this area during all of World War II.

As 91-year-old Navy veteran Ralph Saternow said in a front page story Friday about his landing on the beach at Normandy on D-Day: “You don’t think anything about history – you just want to come out alive.”

Saternow did and he went on to marry Fern Brant and produce seven children. Others who made it back and were featured in Friday stories – Roy H. Uhlinger Jr. and John Demchack – went on to lead productive lives as well.

But what about the ones who didn’t “come out alive”? While we salute their sacrifice, we can only reflect on the effect of how their deaths robbed families of their loved ones.

It is a well-known quote that “war is hell.” But it’s not only hell for the people who serve, it’s a horrible time for families as they await word on their loved ones who are out of touch at a time like D-Day.

The mission was kept as secret as possible so as to not alert the Germans who had occupied France. But when the news and gruesome details of the beach assaults filtered back to this country, heartache followed for families here. After all there was no Internet or cellphones to contact people back in the states back then. Everything was done by “snail mail.”

How many wives or girlfriends cried in relief when they finally heard from their men? But how many family members of the 74 casualties we listed simply dropped to their knees, sobbing in grief upon hearing that their men wouldn’t be coming home. Although that fateful day was 70 years ago, the memories linger for those still living who experienced the beach landings in Normandy. And for those who returned, but later died, the stories they brought back live on with their descendants.

The Herald story on Mr. Uhlinger reported that he died in 1991, but his daughter Patricia Rieg-King reflected on her dad’s service in the Air Force on D-Day and beyond: “I was always excited and proud because my dad was so important.”

Everyone who was in the service in France or even elsewhere on D-Day was so important. According to statistics, only about 18 percent of the people who served in World War II are still alive. And by the 80th anniversary of D-Day, that number will be very, very small.

But like Mrs. Rieg-King, we at The Herald were “excited and proud” that we could bring some local stories to honor the living and the deceased who made great sacrifices for our country 70 fateful years ago to fight for our freedom.

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