75th Anniversary of D-Day

Trip to Normandy

by K. Galen Greenwalt

Pastor, Earlsboro Indian Baptist Church, Earlsboro

From June 1-10, 2019, Pastor Greenwalt was part of a Native American veteran delegation that attended the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of D-Day.  This delegation of more than 30 individuals from 15 different tribes traveled together to events, ceremonies and private welcome dinners.  Greenwalt is a 69-year old veteran who served during the Vietnam Era with the 8th Infantry Division as an Airborne Infantryman in Germany.  He is a bi-vocational pastor, as he works full-time for the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma as the Veterans Affairs Director.  As the director, he represented the Seminole Nation for the ten days of events and ceremonies in Normandy recently.

It was a non-stop itinerary of daily activities, sometimes three or four a day, accompanying a WWII Native American hero, Mr. Charles Shay.  Mr. Shay was a combat medic who came ashore on D-Day, June 6, 1944, with the first wave of the assault on Omaha Beach.  He is credited with saving many lives and was awarded the Silver Star, among other notable distinctions and awards later.  A few years ago, this 95-year old Penobscot Indian from Maine was honored with a monument bearing his name, and this memorial on a sand dune overlooking Omaha Beach gives recognition to all Native Americans who served in WWII.

The highlights of these ten days include a Red Carpet welcome at the Utah Beach Museum, a ceremony at the

1st Infantry Division monument on Omaha Beach, a private Welcome Luncheon by a countess at her chateau in the Normandy region, and a special ceremony with French and American dignitaries at the Charles Shay Indian Memorial.  It was very special to honor the graves of all the Native Americans who are buried at the two American Cemeteries in Northern France, the Normandy Cemetery and the Brittany Cemetery, as we placed flags and roses and picture markers on each identified grave.

Also of note were visits to Pointe du Hoc, a banquet at a French Veterans Hall, an Airborne ceremony honoring the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, and another special event hosted by the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma.

The biggest event of the week, naturally, was the main ceremony held on June 6 at the Normandy American Cemetery, where French President Macron and American President Trump both spoke and gave honor to the fallen soldiers as well as to the WWII veterans sitting on the stage that day.  The ceremony was heartwarming and touching, as it highlighted the valor and courage of these men, most of whom were 18 or 19 years of age when they stormed the beaches of Normandy in the early morning hours of D-Day in 1944.

One special morning of the week for Pastor Galen, personally, was an invitation to go to the home of Helen Patton, the grand-daughter of General George Patton of WWII fame.  Through a friend, he and his wife were asked to join Helen Patton and eight other guests for breakfast at Patton’s home in the Normandy area.  Helen Patton then took a small group on a private tour to a monument to fallen paratroopers and bomber squadrons, which followed with a tour of Camp Patton, a unique memorial and monument to her grandfather General Patton and his troops.

​​​​​​​In summary, Galen was proud to report that the flag of the Great Seminole Nation of Oklahoma was held, carried and flown all through the Normandy and Brittany regions of France.  It was flown at cemeteries, battle sites, ceremonies and events that honored the fallen soldiers of WWII.  But, just as important, it was shown and flown where it specifically honored the Native American warriors, both men, and women, who served honorably and courageously in the battle for freedom across the ocean in the harshest of conditions in the battles of WWII in northern France on D-Day 1944.  Pastor Greenwalt works for the Seminole tribe, and he is a tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee.

   July 2019   
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