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Among the many heirlooms that I have inherited is my mother’s family photo album. I was reminded of it again the other night as I was watching television and a news story came on about the up-coming 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy (on Thursday, June 6).
My Uncle Bobby Kabrich was one of the soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on that fateful day of June 6, as a member of the 29th Infantry Division. He had graduated from high school barely a year earlier, in 1943. The soldiers who fight our nation’s battles are often quite young.
Within the family he was always called “Bobby,” because he was by far the youngest of four children. He was separated by many years from his older brother Charles, a military college graduate and already a major in the Army late in World War II. My mother, Bobby’s much older sister, was an RN in Oak Ridge in 1944, part of the Manhattan Project.
My mother told me that there were weeks that went by after D-Day, and they heard nothing from Bobby, or about Bobby. They feared for the worst. They later learned that Bobby had taken a bullet through the neck after the fighting moved inland, and had almost died. But he recovered. And the family finally heard from him, to everyone’s great relief.
By late 1944 he had recovered to the point that he was sent back to the front line. Just in time for the Battle of the Bulge. He survived that, too.
I am privileged to be the nephew of Uncle Bobby and Uncle Charles, and to have known them both. Bobby came to Nashville in 1991 for my daughter’s high school graduation, an act of kindness and family connectivity which was typical of him. The two of us spent some time talking about Omaha Beach and that time in Normandy, a conversation which I shall always treasure.
“They sent me in to Omaha Beach to meet with the beachmaster and coordinate landing areas for the division,” I recall him telling me. “But there were no landing areas. Everyone was piled on top of each other, and the Germans were shooting straight down on us.”
He made it back to Omaha Beach in 1994 for the 50th anniversary observation, which was very important to him. I’m so glad that he was there. He died about a year later.
Both Bobby and Charles are now at Arlington National Cemetery, among the many thousands who sacrificed to sustain this country and the ideals for which it stands.
Dan E. Pomeroy is the Tennessee State Museum Senior Curator and Director of Collections.