75th Anniversary of D-Day Trip to Normandy

K. Galen Greenwalt, Director of Veterans Affairs Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

From June 1-10, 2019, Director Galen 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.

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 me, 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, I was asked to join Helen Patton and eight other guests for breakfast at her home in the Normandy area. She then took a small group of us on a private tour to a monument to fallen paratroopers and bomber squadrons. We then toured Camp Patton, a unique memorial and monument to her grandfather General Patton and his troops.

In summary, I am 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.