Music has always been Roy Long's escape, even when he served with the 348th Combat Engineers during WWII.
He showed me a picture with his fellow soldiers, and said, "I'm playing my guitar there and these guys are singing."
They had good reason to sing. The soldiers had made it home safely from Normandy.
"Rommel, the famous German 'Desert Fox,' they called him, from Africa. He was the one that decorated the beach for us before we got there."
They approached the beach on D-Day in a Rhino Ferry.
"Clear over to my left side of the beach was an 88 pill box. A bomb wouldn't phase something like that, 6- or 8-foot-thick cement, that's where we ended up putting our first aid station."
Long was a skilled medic who specialized in splints.
"The first one was a man that got hit from a mine on the ground, blowed a chunk out of his upper leg up here," he recalled.
His job was to get the guys patched up and back on the beach so they could go get to the naval hospital.
"You're too busy to think how scared you should be," continued Long.
At just 21 years old, he treated soldier after soldier. He never knew their names, except for one case he remembers well.
Long, who recognized the soldier, said, "So, who was it, but some guy from my hometown! He had worked in the post office in my hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. I knew him and he knew me. Pinky Cantwell was his name."
While his job was to help heal others, Long wasn't immune to the brutality of war.
"I was shot in the right arm. See, that finger right there don't move. I told them leave it in there as a souvenir from Hitler," he laughed.
Long received six medals for his service, including a Purple Heart. Seventy years later, he wonders why so many had to lose their lives.
"I think they fight all wars backwards. They should stop at the top with the guy that caused the war and get them, instead of killing innocent people out there fighting each other, that don't even know each other."
For now, though, the misery of that day is far behind him, as he strums his guitar with the help of the bullet still in his finger. Long now sings of happier days.
Tune in to FOX 13 tonight for my skydive tribute to the D-Day paratroopers as I take the big leap, at 10 p.m.
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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