A humble hero and Omaha Beach

This Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day when nearly 5,000 allied troops perished in an historic invasion that soaked the beaches of Normandy in human blood. One of the fortunate who survived was Huston Riley from Mercer Island.

  • Thursday, June 5, 2014 1:58pm
  • News

Greg Asimakoupoulos and Huston Riley at Tullys in 2009.

This Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day when nearly 5,000 allied troops perished in an historic invasion that soaked the beaches of Normandy in human blood.

One of the fortunate who survived was Huston Riley from Mercer Island. The twenty-two year old had no way of knowing Life magazine photographer Robert Capa had captured his courageous arrival on Omaha Beach until years later. Hu was surprised to see himself pictured in Capa’s iconic photo that became the image forever associated with that unprecedented pursuit of freedom.

Although Hu died nearly three years ago, this historic anniversary of D-Day recalls my all-too-brief friendship with a local hero.

I first met Hu shortly after moving to Mercer Island. When I saw a televised interview Tom Brokaw conducted with Hu from the back porch of his home on North Mercer Way, I called him.

To my amazement, this eighty-something patriot welcomed my invitation to get acquainted.  My first impression of Hu was how short he was. It was a good reminder for me that those to whom we look up are measured by qualities other than height.

As we visited, I realized how unimpressed Hu was with the attention he had received over the years. Like other veterans from “the greatest generation,” Hu considered his military service simply his patriotic duty.  I gave him a copy of a poem I had written about his experience on “the longest day.” He was deeply moved. In return he signed copies of the Capa photo for my three daughters.

A couple years later I learned that Hu was once again fighting on the frontlines of another battle. This time the enemy was cancer. As it was six decades earlier, his courage was evident. We prayed together in a room at Virginia Mason Hospital as he dug in for a lengthy assault.

The last time I spoke to Hu was on June 6, 2011. I had no idea it would be our last visit. I thanked him for his service to our country. I told him I would continue to pray for him. As always, he expressed his gratitude with humility. Hu died less than four months later.

On this anniversary of a day in which a multitude of American troops paid the ultimate sacrifice, my heart pulsates with pride and thanksgiving for men and women like Huston Riley whose example must never be forgotten.

 

[flipp]

More in News

Rosenbaum wins by 40 votes in election recount

Mercer Island City Council Pos. 1 results certified Dec. 6.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

City continues climate commitment

Mercer Island council adopts K4C update.

Natalie DeFord / staff photo
                                People walk past the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride on a cloudy morning Dec. 2.
New reserved parking permits for Park-and-Ride

Sound Transit’s online monthly pass secures a spot during busy commute times.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

Demonstrators from La Resistencia protest Amazon’s involvement with ICE. Photo courtesy of La Resistencia
How will the U.S. respond to climate refugees?

Business as usual has been harder borders, are there other ways to address climate migration?

Eastside election recounts

Bothell, Redmond, and Mercer Island council races going to recount.

Most Read