CHEERS to our friend and colleague Morley Piper of Essex, the longtime newspaper association executive who spoke at the launch for our “Salute to Veterans” book Friday at our office in North Andover. Piper, who wrote a chapter for the book, spoke about his experience landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, as a 19-year-old Army second lieutenant. It was an understated but unflinching account of the horrors of that day and of war in general and a tribute to the incredible bravery and sense of duty of the men who turned the tide against Nazi Germany. Piper said for years he and other combat veterans of World War II would not talk of what they saw and did and felt because they did not want to revive those memories. He believes the survivors now have an obligation to tell their stories because they are a part of our history. Piper said he can now admit without shame that he trembled and shook and, yes, wept as a young man fighting for his life as well as his country during the days after landing in France. May Piper’s example and “Salute to Veterans” encourage others to speak -- and the rest of us to honor them for their service.
CHEERS also to Dick Gerrish of Kingston, N.H., whose gesture of thanks to Piper capped the event in a way so touching that we could never have planned it. Years ago, a family member who had participated in the 50th anniversary observance of D-Day gave Gerrish a commemorative set of three bottles of French red wine. The donor made him promise to give them to three survivors of D-Day. He delivered two bottles but, failing to find a third survivor, put away the remaining bottle and almost forgot about it. Then he read that Piper would be at the Eagle-Tribune on Friday. “It’s my honor to present this to you, Mr. Piper. Thank you for your service,” he said. Piper said he was honored, too, and added that he was at the 50th anniversary observance in Normandy and plans to be at the 70th next year.