Back on June 6, 1944, a nervous young paratrooper from Waltham, Massachusetts named Berge Avadanian was getting ready to be dropped into France as part of the D-Day invasion. Like many of those very brave men, he had a sense of fatality about the mission. He was convinced he would die that day. But he stepped forward, boarded the plane, and did his duty that day, as did countless other heroes.
Avadanian was correct. He did, indeed, die on June 6.
He survived the invasion, and went on to win a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. He survived the war, and came home to serve another 30 years in the Coast Guard. And a lifelong baseball fan (he talked baseball with his buddies before the jump to keep their minds off their likely fate), last fall he got to attend Game Five of the American League championship game of his beloved Red Sox, who went on to win their first World Series since 1918 (the year he was born). An honored guest of the team, he was called on to cry “Play Ball!” and then watch the Sox beat the hated Yankees.
And then, on June 6, 2005, Berge Avadanian finally joined all his buddies he lost on that Longest Day, and who have fallen since.
The day will soon come when we lose the last World War II veteran, the last member of the Greatest Generation. And we will all be poorer on that day.
(Update: Link to Boston Herald story here. My apologies for forgetting it earlier.)