Not just any prayer would do to open Columbia’s D-Day remembrance ceremony. So Navy Lt. Sean Roberts addressed the crowd at the Boone County Courthouse with the words Franklin Roosevelt spoke over the radio to the American people on the evening of June 6, 1944.
“These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace,” Roberts read. “They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people.”
The wreath tribute was held Thursday to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when more than 150,000 soldiers attacked German forces stationed along the French coast of Normandy. The event was held by the United States Exercise Tiger Foundation. The group is named after a D-Day rehearsal that resulted in the deaths of 749 American soldiers, including 201 from Missouri, according to the foundation’s website.
“They met challenges and they overcame them,” Walt Domanski, Tiger Foundation adjutant and the event’s emcee, said about World War II veterans. “There were moments of magnificence and moments of regret. They are our American veterans, and they are our most prized possession.”
Bill Crabb, a 94-year-old Navy veteran who served in World War II, was honored for his service at the ceremony.
Crabb was headed home in 1945 on a short leave before rejoining his ship when he received notice that the war had ended. He then served as a Navy ensign in China, helping to relocate Chinese troops on a naval destroyer ship.
His high school classmate, Frank Davis Jr., was killed in Exercise Tiger, and his brother, Robert Crabb, also died in the war.
“They gave me all kinds of certificates. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them,” Crabb said about the Columbia event. “But it was a nice ceremony. I don’t think they left out anybody. They sure didn’t leave me out.”
Military members and veterans presented wreaths in front of the World War II memorial on the courthouse plaza. The foundation presented a dozen white roses to honor the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting May 31.
“Events like the Virginia Beach shooting are tragedies that need to be recognized throughout the nation,” Susan Haines, national executive director of the Exercise Tiger Foundation, said later. “It could have happened here. Because we are an honors foundation, 12 white roses is the least we can do to show our compassion to Virginia Beach.”
Each person in the crowd, veteran or civilian, was invited to lay a flower in front of one of the five memorials outside of the courthouse. Each memorial represented a different conflict or set of conflicts, from the Civil War to the global war on terrorism.
The tribute continued at The Captain’s Quarters Hair Salon, owned by Haines. Attendees swapped war stories from themselves and their families as they ate doughnuts, drank coffee and, in the cases of the veterans present, received certificates from the Exercise Tiger Foundation.
Roberts served in waters off the coast of Yemen in 2015, maintaining freedom of navigation for civilian shipping. His grandfather did the same thing in World War II as a merchant marine.
“You’re doing your job and you train every day for bad stuff to happen — 99.9% of the time, bad stuff doesn’t happen because you did your job well,” Roberts said.
Roberts was chosen to speak at the event because of his history on amphibious craft like the tank landing ships used on D-Day to bring both vehicles and troops to land.
“Doing the same stuff now, not nearly to the magnitude of what was done back then. ... It’s kind of a neat branch, the old and the new.” Roberts said.
Supervising editor is Libby Stanford.