Our villages of the Valley are now flying “Hometown Hero” flags honoring current and past military servicemen and women who have defended our nation’s freedom. This is great.

We need to especially salute and thank one individual who landed as a teenager on Omaha Beach 75 years ago on D-Day. He was a Waverly High School senior who signed up with the U.S. Army as soon as he heard about Pearl Harbor.

He landed at Normandy under Omar Bradley on June 6, 1944. He was shot in the right hand and lost an eardrum from a German shell which exploded next to him. About 9,300 American soldiers lost their lives that day as they attacked the German war machine.

He — Mr. William Cowles — survived and with the Americans helped liberate northern France and Paris from the Nazi army. He saw and appreciated the Arche de Triomphe (Arc of Triumph). He went on to fight at the Battle of the Bulge. He was only 21 years old when he returned home with injuries from the bullets, shells and from frostbite.

Sixty years after D-Day, he received a thank you letter from the French government for liberating France. Freedom is not free. Mr. Cowles and his wife, to whom he has been married for 70 years, now live in retirement in Sayre.

We all owe him and the many thousands of Americans and allies our deepest thanks for their willingness to sacrifice their lives, and as the letter from France said, to “sacrifice their youth” for Europe to be free.

Rachel D. Lee, MD

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