Dispatch from Normandy: The Attack at Carentan

June 8, 2019Marty Skovlund Jr.
Coffee or Die Photo

The town square in Carentan is infamous. Just days after D-Day, an award ceremony was being held to recognize soldiers for their valorous actions in the opening days of the liberation of Europe. The Germans knew this and sent an artillery barrage mid-ceremony. A little girl taking part in the ceremony moments before lay lifeless in the street moments after.

Seventy-five years later, two dozen veterans of the war sat and watched a re-creation of the ceremony. This time without threat of Nazi artillery.

The veterans were there thanks to Best Defense Foundation. The foundation was started by NFL star Donnie Edwards with the intention of bringing veterans back to the battlefields on which they served. It’s a daunting task: Edwards escorts men and women who are nearly a century old to locations around Europe and the Pacific. If anyone is worth the effort he puts into this, it’s the greatest generation.

A World War II veteran with Best Defense Foundation’s Donnie Edwards. Photo by Josh Skovlund/Coffee or Die.

Today they were treated to a dance in the town square, and then a front-row view of the parade and re-creation of that fateful ceremony. The crowd of American soldiers and Carentanians were excited to have them. At one point, the veterans were in tears. At another, the crowd had more than a few tears of their own.

Edwards and his crew go out of their way to make sure these veterans — our nation’s most finite treasure — have an experience they will never forget.

One of their veterans was in 5th Ranger Battalion. Another was an underwater demolition team (UDT) diver who cleared the mines off Normandy. Others were in tanks or artillery. All put everything on the line when their nation called. If it wasn’t for them, the world would look much different today.

Photo by Champ Robinson/Coffee or Die.

If it wasn’t for Edwards, these veterans’ lives would look much different.

For the active duty soldiers in front of them, it was a special moment that none will be likely to forget anytime soon. And that’s saying something. I met up with many of them at a local bar down by the water afterward. Some were fresh off rotations to Afghanistan; others had just finished in Syria. Some came off a tour of duty with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. All were very aware of how special an opportunity it was for them to be here.

And they didn’t have any problem attracting the attention of the locals. One noncommissioned officer stripped off his top and sat down for an arm-wrestling contest with a local Frenchman, while others flirted with local French girls. No one was having a bad time. All couldn’t quit talking about the incredible men they met at the ceremony. One soldier recalled an interaction between two World War II veterans — one American paratrooper and one German paratrooper. They had words for each other, even after all this time. They still shook hands before parting.

Photo by Champ Robinson/Coffee or Die.

None of these heroes would be present for this opportunity if it weren’t for Best Defense Foundation. It’s no small order to take on this mission, but it makes a difference for those who laid it all on the line — for those who saved the world as we know it.

 This is the fifth in a series of dispatches while Coffee or Die is in Normandy, France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Marty Skovlund Jr.
Marty Skovlund Jr.

Marty Skovlund Jr. was the executive editor of Coffee or Die. As a journalist, Marty has covered the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, embedded with American special operation forces in Afghanistan, and broken stories about the first females to make it through infantry training and Ranger selection. He has also published two books, appeared as a co-host on History Channel’s JFK Declassified, and produced multiple award-winning independent films.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Coffee Or Die Photo
From the Team Room to Team Room Design: An Operator’s Creative Journey

BRCC partners with Team Room Design for an exclusive T-shirt release!

Coffee Or Die Photo
Get Your Viking On: The Exclusive 30 Sec Out BRCC Shirt Club Design

Thirty Seconds Out has partnered with BRCC for an exclusive shirt design invoking the God of Winter.

Grizzly Forge BRCC shirt
Limited Edition: Grizzly Forge Blades on an Awesome BRCC Shirt

Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.

BRCC Limited Edition Josh Raulerson Blackbeard Skull Shirt
From Naval Service to Creative Canvas: BRCC Veteran Artist Josh Raulerson

Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.

Medal of Honor is held up.
Biden Will Award Medal of Honor to Army Helicopter Pilot Who Rescued Soldiers in Vietnam Firefight

Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.

dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2024 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved