In June 1944, under cover of darkness, brave young American G.I.s dropped into the air over Normandy, France. The 101stAirborne was part of the mission to liberate France from the firmly entrenched Nazi forces. It was one of the boldest, and would become one of the most storied, invasions in all of history. Known as D-Day, it was the movement that changed the course of history and saved Europe. This began to win the war for the Allies.
It’s hard to imagine the fear and dread the people felt who lived in these small villages who were under such siege and oppression. When the Allied forces arrived, many men fought and died, but their lives were given for the cause of freedom and liberty. When the invasion was over, they were free.
A young married couple were just beginning their lives together at that time, and they determined never to forget. They taught their children about the debt they owed, and vividly illustrated it by hanging a permanent picture of the 101stAirborne C Company in their house. Their son grew up knowing in some sacred way that his family was deeply grateful to those men in the fading sepia picture.
That son’s name is Thierry Ferrey. In 2014, he wrote a letter to my dad, who was Lt. James L. Mason in the picture that hung in Ferrey’s home in Carentan, France. Dad was wounded in 11 places on June 21 not far from where Thierry’s family home was located. Mr. Ferrey wrote to express his gratitude to Dad and his comrades for what they had done 60+ years before. He said he had spent a number of years trying to track down any surviving members of C Company, and tell them how thankful he was for their service. Now he had located Dad.
To say Dad was overwhelmed by this letter, and the heart of the man who wasn’t even born yet when his town was saved, is an understatement. Gratitude of this type is rarely seen. All of us are benefactors from the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, and few ever even give it a thought. Yet, this man made the effort to find the people he owed and thank them. Amazing.
Mr. Ferrey told Dad he would like to meet him sometime if possible. This week that dream is coming true. Dad and his grateful friend will officially meet on Wednesday, as Thierry has made the trip to the United States specifically for the sole purpose of meeting Dad, and saying thanks. Of course, we are excited. This is a thrill for all of us, a historic moment for Dad, and a moment we will remember forever. This act of gratitude is never to be forgotten.
But more than that, it is the gratitude that is amazing. Mr. Ferrey’s parents’ gratitude shaped him. His gratitude is uniting people across continents. It will be legendary in our family, as we pass on the story of his own sacrificial efforts to make certain he said “thank you.” It challenges me.I am so grateful for his gratitude . . . it is changing me.
I’ll tell you the rest of the story when it happens.