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

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

Development has encroached on the East Lake Sammamish Trail (at right). Joe Livarchik/file photo
King County files lawsuit to finish East Lake Sammamish Trail

Homeowners have until September to remove buildings and other property from the right of way.

Bellevue residents Marko and Karla Ilicic play a hockey game in the Topgolf Swing Suite inside Forum Social House. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
Forum Social House opens in Bellevue

Eastside gets new nightclub, mini golf, swing suites.

In November 2019, Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which calls for $30 car tabs. Sound Publishing file photo
Republicans try to guarantee $30 car tabs amid court hangup

Lawmakers sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County could bump up Metro electrification deadlines

Transportation generates nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Sound Transit station. File photo
Construction on Eastside-related light rail project begins

Travelers should expect delays until March.

The Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce presents the 2019 Business of the Year Award to Covenant Living at the Shores (CLS). From left: CLS’s Bob Bowen, Chamber of Commerce Board President Suzanne Skone, CLS Associate Executive Director Marykay Duran, CLS’s Leslie McGee, CLS Sales Director Nancy Woo, and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurie Givan. Courtesy photo.
Chamber names Mercer Island Business of the Year

2019 award goes to Covenant Living at the Shores.

Photo courtesy of effieparks.com
                                Effie Parks started a podcast about raising children with disabilities.
Mercer Island mom creates podcast about raising children with disabilities

Effie Parks launched the “Once Upon a Gene” podcast last October.

Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2020 State of the State Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Office of the Governor)
Gov. Inslee delivers State of the State Address

By Leona Vaughn, WNPA News Service OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee stood… Continue reading

Most Read