EDITOR'S NOTE: Every year, I run a version of this story as a tribute to the men who died fighting on D-Day, including one scared young man who kept his head down, survived the worst days of his life, then came home to one day become my father in law. Rest in peace, Hank.
To some, today is a footnote in history. A day on the beaches of Normandy 77 years ago when an event codenamed Operation Overlord was launched, beginning what many say was the beginning of the end of World War II.
It will always be more than history to me, because in that first wave was a 21-year-old Private First Class from Henry County, VA by the name of Allen Homer Sink. He would survive that initial wave, participate in battle until it ended in August, then come home to marry and raise a family of four, including two daughters after the war ended.
He would also become my father-in-law until his death in 2006.
His nickname for some reason was “Hank” and when I asked him how he got it, he said some guy in the Army said he “looked like a Hank.” From the time I first met him, he was a salt-of-the-earth man who was never afraid of anything. He was a carpenter by trade, and he’d stand up on the tallest roofs, grab bumblebees with his bare hands when they tried to persuade him to move elsewhere, and never be bothered by anything.
His hands were tough and leathery, but he was a softie. He spoiled his children, complained when my mother-in-law would gripe about something involving one of his alleged misdeeds, and always thought he was fooling everybody when he snuck around the back of the house and lit a cigarette, a habit everyone opposed but he could never part himself from.
He could talk your ear off for hours at a time, and I always suggested he become a greeter at Wal-Mart when he retired because then he could talk all day to strangers and none of them would – like his wife and daughters often did – tell him to be quiet for a few moments. Yet for all his love of talking, there was one subject he just wouldn’t discuss.
June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach.