"Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd."
June 6, 2015.
At 0630, 71 years ago, the 116th Infantry Regiment, comprised mainly of Virginia National Guardsmen, assaulted prepared German defensive positions at Omaha Beach in Normandy near the towns of Vierville, les Moulins, St. Laurent, and Coleville. They charged from their amphibious landing craft headlong into a storm of fire, smoke, and steel. These men were the first wave of the Allied invasion that opened the second front in western Europe. The 116th took horrific losses, but they fought hard and gained the high ground beyond the beach, paving the way in their blood for the rest of the invasion force to launch the liberation of Europe.
I am proud and fortunate to have served in the 116th in combat (Afghanistan). Each year around Veterans' Day, veterans of the 116th gather in Staunton, Virginia, to celebrate the regiment's proud history and honor those D-Day veterans whose bravery and sacrifice is beyond measure. We call this event the 116th Regimental Muster. I look forward to the muster each year for the chance to talk with the D-Day veterans and thank them for what they have done. The first year I attended the muster there were a couple dozen D-Day veterans in attendance. Last year, 2014, there were three.
At the muster, the tables of the D-Day veterans include an exclusive libation-a bottle of Calvados-the regional spirit of Normandy, distilled from apples. I can imagine that my predecessors got into a few bottles of Calvados as they fought their way inland through the Bocage, the dense hedgerows of Normandy, in the days and weeks following their assault on Omaha Beach.
Here, then, is my small tribute to these great men and a salute to their bravery. The ingredients of this cocktail are not necessarily the best available in their class, but each carefully-chosen ingredient is symbolic in some way of the experience of the 116th Regiment on Omaha Beach and beyond. Enjoy it, and remember the 116th on Omaha Beach. Ever Forward!
1 shot Virginia Gentleman bourbon
1 shot Calvados
1/4 shot La Belle Orange
3 dashes aromatic bitters
Twist of lemon peel
Dash of salt
Dissolve salt with bitters in old fashioned glass. Add ice and all the booze. Stir. Twist lemon peel over the top. Serve and remember the 116th Infantry Regiment's assault on Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. Ever Forward!