Former Cpl. John “Jack” Foy Gives Speech Heard ‘Round the World
2023 Normandy Battlefield Return – Day 8
Boys too young to serve lied to get into the military so that they could fight for their country in WWII. Some as young as 15, and former Staff Sgt. Jake Larson was one of those people. He stormed the Normandy Beach on D-Day, braving heavy machine gun fire and artillery. He made it off the beach without any wounds, arguably a miracle.
Now, he’s returned to the cemetery where so many of his friends were killed by Nazi machine gun fire on Omaha Beach 79 years ago.
“Two MG-42s are blasting at you, 2,400 rounds a minute. You can’t think that fast,” Larson said.
The Best Defense Foundation attended the 79th Anniversary of the D-Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, a sobering place where 9,000 American military members are buried. Many of them died storming the Normandy Beaches.
Former Cpl. John “Jack” Foy gave a groundbreaking speech during the ceremony. He detailed his experience in the war serving under Gen. George Patton in the 347th Infantry Regiment, 87th Division, 3rd Army. He said his grandchildren ask him questions about the war sometimes.
“My grandchildren sometimes ask, ‘Were you a hero in the war, Pappy?,” Foy said. “My answer is, ‘no, but I was in the company of heroes.”
Over 19,00 men were killed during the Battle of the Bulge, and Foy is one of the 40 of 200 in his company that survived. He detailed the liberation of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. His speech sent shivers down the spines of everyone in attendance. The Associated Press posted a full-length video of his speech, and it’s been viewed by thousands of people around the world.
Foy’s message was to never forget. Not just by repeating names but by keeping the stories of the fallen alive by sharing them.
“Ask yourselves what that is all about. From where oh God, men came such men as these? The warriors of the greatest generation, a generation that is taking their final curtain call of over 1,000 men a day, and soon we all will have left,“ Foy said. “This country was truly blessed. Guardians with their silence now. The battle smoke has fled. 70 years and 9 have passed. Now, only memories and the dead.”
After the ceremony, the foundation traveled to the Overlord Museum nearby Omaha Beach to visit with both locals and people visiting from all over the world. Over 100 people cycled through the tent where they brought in WWII artifacts to be signed by the WWII veterans, sought each veteran’s “player card,” and had a conversation.
Some people thanked the veterans for their service, while others detailed why they are alive today because of the Allied Forces’ intervention 79 years ago. Once the meet and greet concluded, the foundation headed to Omaha Beach.
It was a similar reaction to the veteran’s experience at Utah Beach. Some veterans become overwhelmed with emotion while others stare into the distance. This is the beach where so many of their friends and family died.
Roses were placed on the beach to commemorate those who lost that fateful day almost eight decades ago. It seemed that everyone, from WWII veterans to foundation volunteers, had a singular purpose in mind as they stepped onto the beach.
The foundation, along with its partner representatives and volunteers from Delta Air Lines and Michelin, visited the Mémorial de Caen. It’s built over the remains of a Nazi bunker that served as the headquarters for Nazi Gen. Wilhelm Richter, commander of the 716th German infantry.
The bunker was preserved and filled with facts about its place in history. But overall, the museum is a tribute to peace and reconciliation. It has displayed throughout the building showing an objective view of war and the horrors inherent with it.
The museum hosted everyone for dinner. Speakers from the foundation and its partners praised thanks for the program and how it has impacted their way of life. It was unanimous this program would have lifelong effects on everyone that was a part of it. They described conversations with WWII veterans that hit home, the strong bonds between the team, and many other examples.
The 79th Anniversary of D-Day was packed with events throughout the day but also marked the second to last night of the program. Everyone involved with the foundation — from WWII veterans to partners to volunteers — has developed bonds that rival family ties.
This is the eighth installation of a series of stories. Keep an eye on the foundation’s social media on Instagram: @bestdefensefoundation, Twitter: @bestdefense_, and Facebook: Best Defense Foundation.