Honoring a hero

| June 29, 2011
The Gray family in the American Cemetery in Normandy.

The Gray family in the American Cemetery in Normandy.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you, and to all our brave servicemen and women here and abroad fighting terrorism on land, sea and in the air.

This is the story of Cecil Embry Gray, who died recently at 88, father, grandfather, beloved husband and World War II hero, friend and patriot, who died on June 10. His visitation was on June 11 at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church.

I was sitting in the kitchen reading a cookbook that day, planning to attend the funeral service on Saturday when suddenly I visualized Cecil’s mischievous smiling face so vividly I hurried to the church, thinking Cecil wanted to show me something I wouldn’t see tomorrow.

It was his U.S. Army 5th Ranger Battalion hat placed on his coffin covered by the American flag and flanked by American flags and flowers.

Cecil gray’s favorite U.S. Army 5th Ranger Battalion hat.

Cecil gray’s favorite U.S. Army 5th Ranger Battalion hat.

“Cecil loved that hat!” a  family member told me.

That hat is inscribed with “Rangers lead the way!”

“We thank Cecil for leading the way for all of us, as he did with dignity, honor and love,” one of his grandchildren said.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he and his fellow Rangers “Led the way,” as one of the first to land on Omaha Beach Dog Green in Normandy, France. This landing was portrayed in the hit movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”

Cecil later received many awards and honors including the Purple Heart (he was wounded), the Bronze Star and the French Croix de Guerre.

The Rangers saw the heaviest fighting of D-Day and were the first to penetrate the German lines.

Cecil Gray in the American Cemetery in Normandy with his three grandchildren on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

Cecil Gray in the American Cemetery in Normandy with his three grandchildren on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

Their brave maneuver saved thousands of lives of the soldiers landing on the beach.

He described this to me when I called him when my own brother, Lt. Tommy Becker of the Second Marines, was killed attacking Japanese soldiers on Tarawa in November of 1944.

Cecil has been kindness itself, comforting the wife of the Rev. Robert (Robin) Jennings, Mary.

“Our son Robin didn’t write for such a long time I thought he had been killed,” Mary told me. “But Cecil called me every day and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s fine.’ ”

The Rev. Robin Jennings and his wife, Mary, comfort Mrs. Morgan Hall (Holly) whose late husband was Cecil’s best friend.

The Rev. Robin Jennings and his wife, Mary, comfort Mrs. Morgan Hall (Holly) whose late husband was Cecil’s best friend.

They are shown here with a picture of Cecil, a fast friend of the late Morgan Hall, a war hero himself.

His lovely genteel wife, “Holly” Hall, said Cecil “lived at our house,” talking war stories.

His pallbearers were all sons of his friends: Christopher Foster, Michael Gardner, Kennedy Simpson, Terry Tyler, Edward Welch, Harry Wall, Clark Welch and Dylan Yussman.

They are also friends of my late son Dennis Long.

I am so happy to thank Cecil today, after all he reached me in time to come and photograph his favorite hat in a close-up.

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Category: The Social Side

About the Author (Author Profile)

Lucie Blodgett
Always out and about at happenings around town, Lucie Blodgett has been writing a weekly column for The Voice-Tribune for more than two decades.

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