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Storming the Coast...



So I share a lot about my family and the madness that ensues when we are all together, but one thing I have never shared is that my grandfather was in fact an anchor baby. That's right, my great-grandmother gave birth to him and Uncle Leo in Brooklyn, and then fled back to Italy. Okay, they didn't exactly flee, as it took them over two weeks by boat to get back. But she left America to raise her children as Italians while giving them the option to make a life for themselves if they chose to in America. If it wasn't for Nonna, I may not have been an American citizen, and perhaps my life would have been spent as an Italian girl squashing grapes on the family farm, which also doesn't sound too bad. 

As we expats are reminded of every year when we pay our American taxes from France, being an American comes with responsibilities. So when my Grandfather returned back to the States as a young man, he was immediately served with papers that would take him back to Europe. No, he wasn't being deported, but because he was an American, he was being enlisted into the United States Navy where months later he stormed the coasts of Normandy to fight in World War II. I'm not sure he even spoke English at the time.

Whenever my cousins and I moan and complain about trivial things like the DVR not recording the season finale of The Jersey Shore, my grandfather calls us Normandy, putting us in our place that our lives are charmed. "Hey Normandy over there," he screams from across the table waving a piece of bread in the air, "When I was your age I saw my best friend's head blow up on the ship when we were invading the Nazis e Francia! Now that's a problem!"Grandpa always wins arguments with his handy Nazi card, because really, what can you say after that?

No matter how cruel, or lame some of my French ex-boyfriends have been, each and everyone of them have thanked my grandfather for his service in World War II, particularly his efforts at the Normandy invasion. This has always made me feel proud. I'm proud of his accomplishments, proud to be his granddaughter, and grateful for his sacrifices that has made the life of my family in America easier. Tonight we're taking him out dinner to celebrate him and his achievements on the anniversary of D-Day.

At the airport yesterday, a flight heading out to London Heathrow was filled with veterans who have also fought in World War II, and were heading to Normandy to reenact D-Day. This was the official procession to the gate. 







 What was going on a year ago today? This!

15 comments:

  1. Oh wow! That is so interesting, both Nonna's decision and your Grandfather fighting in Normandy. Does he ever tell you any stories about it?
    And yeah, if I was him, I'd play the Nazi card every single time. x.

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    1. Yeah, Nonna was a smart lady. She was thinking about all of us when she decided to give birth in America. She wanted us so badly to be American. All her hard work and her great granddaughter is back in Europe! I'm such a rebel. : )

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  2. You're right - there's no response to the "I fought the Nazis in Normandy" card!

    Thanks for including the photos of the veterans' procession at the airport. I had hoped to go to Normandy for the 69th anniversary but didn't make it. Hopefully I'll be there for the 70th. If I am, you can be sure that I'll be thinking of your grandfather, the anchor baby.

    Do you know where he fought in Normandy? You should ask him to do an oral history recording. I would love to hear it!

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    1. You're welcome, MK. I'm glad you liked them. It was such a special thing to see.

      I am going on vacation with them this summer and Seb and I are thinking of asking him if we can film him talking about it. He may be into it. Although, my grandmother told me after 15 years of marriage was when he finally told her stories, because of how traumatized he was. He was honorably discharged with a Purple Heart due to head injury on the ship.

      If we film this, I'll send it to you!! I assure you that you will be entertained.

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  3. AnonymousJune 06, 2012

    Amazing story! Thanks Grandpa of Ella!!!!!!!

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    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I love how you guys find my family as entertaining as I do. I feels good to know that it's not just me, they're a funny bunch!

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  4. Indeed, what can you say after a mention of fighting nazis or The Holocaust? Nada.

    It's like the ever compelling argument "you go where the sauce is good". Can't argue with that:)

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    1. It's like that SATC episode where Charlotte says to Harry "Well now you've just mentioned the Holocaust" making her request for marriage seem trite.

      After Grandpa drops the N bomb, yeah, the table goes silent.

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  5. AnonymousJune 07, 2012

    Thanks for sharing that video. Love the smile on the vet's face when they applaud. What a wonderful thing to do for those gents!

    "Hey Normandy over there" hilarious line!

    Give your gramps a kiss from all of us who love the US and France equally.

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    1. He's a funny guy, my grandpa. He doesn't even realize it! Normandy is just one of the many nicknames he has for his grandkids.

      I'm very proud of him! One day I will film him talking about this experience.

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  6. Those airport photos are really neat; thanks for sharing them.

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    1. Thanks! We were so lucky to have been there to this. I wish all flights had a precession to the gate!

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  7. AnonymousJune 09, 2012

    How very lucky you are to have him! I adore the "Hey Normandy" reminder to stop kvetching. What are other names he has for you guys? Is he still in touch or friends with some of his WWII buddies? My godfather was a judge in WWII and though he wasn't fighting, he had his finger blown off and has a funny double step frequently (well now he's 96, but this double-step has been there since his return). He has never spoken of it, though, not even to his wife, my aunt.

    Good luck in approaching him to film (or perhaps audio taping, if it makes him less self-conscious?). And if you are sharing, I'd be honoured to be added to the list!
    Kind regards,
    Daisy

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    1. Thanks Daisy! We are lucky to have him. He's really wonderful! He's not in touch with anyone from WWII, and I'm not really sure why. He went into business shortly after the war and was pretty successful. I think he wanted to put it behind him. It's only recently (the past 10 years) he talks about it with us.

      I understand why your godfather won't talk about it. It was really traumatizing. One of things my grandfather said was that the sea was bright red....

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  8. Great story Lisa and if I were you, I would be so proud too! Thank you to your grandfather! Keep us posted on the video x

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