A small plaque to a young veteran in a New York park tells a very American story of sacrifice.
I am always astounded to read articles on The Free Press that I don't think I would ordinarily choose to read and then come away glad that I have read them. I found this very moving, especially the ending, and I thank the author for sharing this.
I was born in Caen, Normandy and raised in a village a few kilometers north. Like all kids going to school in this region, I was taught extensively about World War II since this war left a lot of scars here (Caen was destroyed at 85% By allied bombing on D-Day and even today, non detonated munitions are regularly unearthed on construction sites, whole areas have to be evacuated for the munitions to be exploded safely by specialized technicians).
I visited the Omaha Beach American War Cemetery with my school has a kid, and back then I looked at it only from an intellectual standpoint: "These are the graves of dead American soldiers who fought in Normandy during World War II". And didn't think about it much more.
A few years ago, when I was on a vacation at my parents', I decided to pay a visit to this beautiful place. This time, being in my late twenties, I was able to look at all these white crosses from an emotional standpoint, as I read the birthdates and dates of death on the crosses. Most of these soldiers were 18, 19, 20...
And I realized fully then, that these young men had crossed the Atlantic to fight in France, in order to defend the idea they had of Freedom, in a foreign land far from home. Some survived a few weeks, some were barely able to advance a few meters on the beach, but all contributed to the Allies victory and the liberation of Europe.
I was almost crying, while considering their courageous sacrifice, not being sure I would have done the same, especially for a foreign country.
So, as someone who today is able to speak French instead of German, I would like to say to these men :
A wonderful story to honor the fallen this Veteran’s Day. It’s a reminder that immigration and assimilation is an integral part of the American ethos. The Barbosas were proud to be Americans. I am dismayed that I can’t say the same for many younger folks these days that hate the greatest nation on Earth.
I’m a Vietnam veteran. I am very fortunate to have returned from my tour there. Too many of my brothers in my rifle company arms did not. I think about my experience and those young men every day. My tour in Vietnam, and time in the army is the most transformative period of my life. I visited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach and walked among the various grave markers. I found a number of markers of young men who were killed at Normandy, who were in the same unit that I was in Vietnam.
As I said a prayer at the graves, it brought tears to my eyes, thinking about what these young men would’ve done with their lives. They made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat evil.
I do not see the same commitment from our fellow Americans. We take what we have for granted, and many in our society, think that our country is evil. I fear that we are losing the values and traditions that made us a great country, but we are in decline and America is breaking apart. I pray I’m wrong.
There is a story behind every man and woman who died in service of their country. Thank you for researching and telling the story of one of the many, Emilio RIP.
If Emilio were alive today he would be heartbroken to see what kids these days think of America. When they turn our beautiful country into a tyrannical dictatorship like the one the Barbosas escaped maybe they'll appreciate it then. Make America Cool Again.
Thank you Mr Nocera. I walk my dog to Bennett park every morning for the last seven years and still don’t recall seeing a plaque. I will make sure to find it and pay homage. And thank you so much for reminding us all of sacrifice.
He was 19…19 YO, and already a veteran of war on two hemispheres. A credit to his family his nation and himself and gone too soon!
Godspeed PFC Barbosa
Thank you for sharing. So many unsung heroes- who were so very loved- fought for us and we must not forget them.
A truly great American story. The contrast with what we have watched the past five weeks in America's streets and campuses is telling. God bless all the Emilios and his brothers who helped protect our precious freedoms.
what a touching story. Thank you for adding humanism to this important day, Im sure there so many Emilios and thank God for them.
Semper Fidelis, Emilio
And happy late birthday
These sacrifices will be in vain if adherents of a conquest ideology continue to be permitted to enter America. I made this point 20 years ago after I read the Koran. Who couldn’t have predicted there would be a rise in antisemitism with more Muslim immigration? All but the wilfully ignorant knew what would happen. So now we have these people and young ignoramuses protesting Israel’s defense of itself. Six million dead Jews was not enough.
This was a beautifully written article. It makes me think of Lincoln's line from the Gettysburg Address that we should never forget what they did here. It also stirs a line from Bob Dole, who said they gave up their tomorrows so we could have our today.
I loved how Joe Nocera gave the history of the man, his family, and the effects of losing a loved one. I enjoyed reading how he jumped into the war as his brothers did or his love for his country, as it was the one he only knew. In today's race-obsessed world, I am reminded that was not always the case: ethnicity mattered, and the communities within cities that people grew up in grieved as well.
Finally, we need to look at our culture and education system that the less sophisticated eras of the past produced Emilio, whereas today, we have people who cheer Hamas.
Another great article, thank you for that.
I lived in that neighborhood for many years and was in that park about a million times. There is a long staircase that starts from Pinehurst Avenue down to
W. 181st St. which is in the shadow of the massive George Washington Bridge. There's a lot of Washington named stuff up there: Bridge, Heights, Avenue. After reading this, I imagined young Emilio running up and down that staircase bursting with youthful exuberance, rushing to his next ballgame. What has always struck me as amazing was the (I'm going to call it) moral clarity that the WW2 generation seemed to be in possession of. The willingness to drop everything to go and fight Hitler and Hirohito; to take a stand and be willing to put one's ass on the line; to be willing to say "this is wrong", and do something to stop it, including dying is something we can all use more of. There didn't seem to be much moral relatively (who are we to judge, we're just as bad?) going on. I'm not advocating to run off to war every other minute. But sometimes it's okay to judge something as evil. My dad and all of my uncles served in WW2, and one of my uncles was killed in Holland and is buried under one of those white crosses there.
Heart-wrenchingly beautiful. My heart hurts and is full at the same time.