by Dan Moran – News-Sun
Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous observation about old soldiers wasn’t meant to be taken literally, because time demands that we all leave the stage at some point. It’s that part about fading away that we should hope to avoid.
When it comes to the soldiers from the World War II generation, American culture has done its best to make sure that their experiences and lessons will outlive them, from full-blown documentaries to the Veterans History Project launched by the Library of Congress.
For men like Robert Lundy Sr., a kid from Waukegan who found himself parachuting into France on June 6, 1944, the simple act of sharing his story with family members was one way of making sure that landmark events from another generation wouldn’t be lost to the passing years. He took a step beyond that on Memorial Day 2009 to tell the Lake County News-Sun about his service as the 65th anniversary of D-Day approached.
“We were not thinking about being part of history at that time,” Lundy told our former News-Sun colleague Kendrick Marshall that day. “We were fighting for our country.”
Lundy, who had agreed to serve as one of the guests of honor at Memorial Day ceremonies in his hometown, added that leaping out of a plane under fire with his fellow paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division “was the biggest thing to ever happen to me.”
“I saw a lot of my friends die during that time,” Lundy said. “I just wanted to get the heck out of the plane.”
It was my pleasure to speak with Lundy a few days later as he elaborated about those memories for a front-page story under the headline “D-Day, Plus 65.” He was 85 at the time and recalled those life-altering events as if they had happened the previous week. As with so many Lake County survivors of World War II, the conversation with Bob Lundy was an education.
Last week, I was sad to learn that Lundy had passed away in October at age 91. I also felt a sense of disappointment that I only stumbled across his passing three months later.
Not everyone can get the news-flash attention of Alan Rickman or Glenn Frey, but it just seemed like a local guy who has survived not only D-Day but the Battle of the Bulge should have merited more than a standard obituary.
Lundy’s niece, Terri Bicanic, posted a tribute to her uncle last week on Facebook with the 2009 News-Sun cover photo, saying “he really felt appreciated” after the opportunity to tell his tale. On the phone this week, Bicanic said Lundy was able to retrace his personal history in his final decade, visiting Normandy and Bastogne and attending his first 101st Airborne reunion, among other things that had been on his bucket list.
“He took me to Europe and showed me all the places he had gone,” she said. “I wasn’t always a fan of history, but now I have so much respect for World War II veterans.”
She added a tip for any of us who have someone in their lives who can take us back to a long-lost age and keep the fire burning: “He sat down one time and went through a book about the 101st Airborne, and I taped him. I have that whole tape, and thank God I did it.”