D-Day remembered: Retired American teacher recalls the historic event from her home in Romania

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Universul.net is publishing one woman’s personal recollections of D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, an operation which began the liberation of France and the rest of Western Europe, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Nancy Rice, a retired American teacher, counselor and former consultant for disadvantaged students, who’s lived in Romania for almost 30 years was a child when D-Day happened and living in her native Texas, in the south of the U.S.

6 June 2024

It’s a beautiful day. We have wonderful new rocking chairs where I am sitting now enjoying endless beauty.  The roses are blooming everywhere and grapevines covering the chicken house grounds allow the birds to fly through and help the chickens eat the seeds that we put there daily.

Today as I watched the ceremony celebrating the importance of D-Day, I was filled with memories and with each a recognition of how connected those memories are to what happened on that day, the landing at Normandy.  I recall many of the ways my life has been shaped by those connections, but most importantly, I could see clearly that it made my being here in Romania in this village a possibility that could not exist otherwise.

I remember my high school friend, Dudley Braly, who told me that his older brother was killed at Normandy and that he is buried there. (I have just found this link to his story –  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8054977/houston_lee_braly)  and am reminded now of how we remember an important aspect of  events but the details are not exact.  I have thought of Dudley’s brother each year as D-Day is honored and wonder how many others that I might have known were also among the brave who fought in WWII.  My brother sent a link to show another Brady connection to that day – https://www.abmc.gov/Pointe-du-Hoc.  No doubt there are more.

When I met my second cousin, BG (ret.) Vonna Burger, he told me about the end of World War II and how, after the Battle of the Bulge, the soldiers would drink anything they could get their hands on.  He was at Miramare where the American military took over from the Nazis and commanded many aspects of the battles of WWII.

I remembered, too, my Uncle Charles who sent me postcards while I was a child at the Sanatorium in San Angelo.  He was a victim of PTSD before it was ever identified as being a consequence of fighting in war.    I thank my uncle Charles and all those others who fought in World War II.  He was among those who were in the process of liberating Italy and the PTSD from that experience affected him the rest of his life.  My mother knew that caring for her brother was really an important thing to do so that he was able to have some care and connections with family.  At that time they called it battle fatigue not post-traumatic stress.

And sadly I recently saw an interview of one who would bring back those who conspired with the Nazis.  It reveals a terrible blight on humanity that exists now after all that was so costly in defeating.  May the vote today show that the majority choose democracy.

Because of that war, my father was not allowed to be in the military because he was an engineer who was needed to build air bases in Texas.  He was transferred quite often thus enabling the move to San Angelo when I was sent to the Sanatorium.  From Mission to San Angelo, to Houston and Galveston, housing was scarce everywhere.  Rosenberg and Wharton and the Island City Homes in Galveston.   Before housing was available at Camp Hood we lived in Lampasas and finally in an apartment in a barracks on the base.  (We had a teenage club and access to the gym and swimming pool.  We did not know about the reasons we were there.)   They changed the name from Camp Hood to Fort Hood and recently, due to some sensitivities, to Fort Cavazos.

When I came here, I was able to travel to ever so many places in Europe, one of them being that very place where BG (ret.) Vonna Burger was one of the commanding officers, Miramare Castle near Trieste at the end of WWII.

It was much later that I read about the Marshall Plan and understood how those very words had been implemented in such a way that Europe has become a group of nations able to provide support to Ukraine, invaded by Russia.  Russia declined – yes, they declined -participating in the Marshall Plan because they wanted to maintain communism, not only in Russia but also in the other countries behind the Iron Curtain.  Basically that’s what that meant and now they want to claim what is not theirs and thus they want to proceed again to come and take over countries such as this beautiful one, Romania. Having seen it after those dreadful years of Nazi occupation and the long years of communism with its starvation and hunger and the lack of ability for people to do what they needed to do to take care of themselves, I’ve seen this country emerge step by step by brittle hard step into a country that is much more like it was when Bucharest was called the Little Paris.

In Bucharest, I saw the difference.  There were piles of garbage in the streets, packs of dogs running around, very few cars driving on dimly lit streets and many unfinished buildings.  Some buildings that I saw had no water or other utilities above the first floor, if even there.  Potholes in the streets except for the major one between the airport and places that important visitors were to be taken.  Street signs said to go straight ahead when it was clear that one had to turn either to the right or to the left and maps were incorrectly designed in order to confuse a foreigner. There were no major highways going to any of the main places one might visit.   For instance, it was not so easy to get to the Black Sea shore such as the major highway between Bucharest and Constanta makes so much easier and safer.   I could go on and on, but the fact that NATO now makes good use of locations in Romania could reveal a lot to you and also make you know in your heart that the consequences of WWII have been positive for much of humanity and those results also make it possible to defend against would be bullies that exist in America and beyond.

If not for the American Embassy in Romania understanding the need for Eugeniu to be rescued from the torment he had endured, I could not be here.  If not for his refusal to become a communist, I could not be here.  I did not know the story then and have gradually learned more of it as time has passed by, but without the spirit that enabled so many to sacrifice so much, not only could I not be here, but the whole history of human life on this planet could not be headed in a direction that increases those aspects of life that make it so delightfully livable in a small village north of Bucharest.

As I sit here making these connections, I especially want my friends from high school days to realize that there’s a big connection between them and this day at that landing and the celebration and understanding of exactly what Normandy means.

What a life! What a heritage!  What amazing memories!  And, because of all of these things, the basic foundation for Europe becoming an entity strong enough to maintain the democracy it now experiences.  May the elections in the European Union show that Democracy prevails.

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