Before joining the 29th Infantry Division, the young men who splashed through the ocean and stormed Normandy’s Omaha Beach mostly enjoyed carefree lives.
“We were pretty young and ordinary when we went into military service,” said Morley Piper, who was 19 years old and a 2nd lieutenant in charge of a rifle platoon of 42 soldiers on June 6, 1944.
After D-Day, those who survived that epic battle that would change the course of the war would not be innocent or ordinary anymore, however.
“Bravado comes easily to young men,” Piper said, “but the baptism of fire on Omaha Beach was heart-stopping.”
Piper was the keynote speaker for last week’s release of “North of Boston: Salute To Veterans,” a coffee-table book featuring thousands of local veterans. The Dec. 13 event drew about 100 people to the North Andover offices of The Eagle-Tribune, the Andover Townsman’s sister paper.
Published by North of Boston Media Group, the parent company of the Townsman as well as The Eagle-Tribune, The Daily News of Newburyport, The Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times, “Salute to Veterans” pays tribute to local veterans from the Civil War forward.
Individuals who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and Iraq and Afghanistan were represented at the release party, along with family members, friends and many people who just wanted to be present to show their appreciation.
The crowd gave Piper a standing ovation following his speech about D-Day and the importance of talking about war experiences, even when it’s difficult because the memories are tragic.
North of Boston Media Group Regional Publisher Karen Andreas thanked the crowd for coming and invited comment, which led to a series of moving and at times even humorous tales of wartime experiences.
Piper said it was a pleasure to hear these people speak and also a relief because for too many years, no one would talk about their experiences.
“Veterans are certainly more interested in preserving their stories now than they used to be, as this book certainly shows,” he said. “We have an obligation to the younger generations to tell our stories. The war years were such an important era in history.”
“Salute to Veterans” is being sold at the Townsman office at 33 Chestnut St. in Andover and can also be ordered. For more information, visit www.eagletribune.com.