In the summer of 2012, while cruising on Avalon Creativity, I visited the D-Day Landing Beaches and the American Cemetery with my son Alex. Seeing how — and where — the invasions took place was both poignant and fascinating, but it was at the cemetery where we discovered something that took us by surprise: the grave of Garnie L. Grizzle.
Who was this soldier who shared our last name? We knew little about him from the marker, one of nearly 10,000 markers at the American Cemetery. We could guess that he was wounded during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, and died a week after the invasion, on June 13, 1944. But how was he wounded?
On the US War Memorial website all that was revealed about Garnie L. Grizzle was that he ranked as a US Army private who came from Union, Georgia. How old was he when he died? Did he have family? As he suffered did he have hopes that he would recover from his wounds and return to his homeland? Or was he unconscious and unaware of his condition? All unanswered questions.
What we do know is that on June 6, 1944, Garnie L. Grizzle was alive, just like Alex and me. A week later, the young man was dead, a hero who died in an invasion that changed history.
On his Facebook page, Alex wrote: It’s not everyday that you find someone with the last name Grizzle at the D-Day cemetery. It was a poignant, yet proud, day that will forever leave us wondering about the young man who lived and shared our last name and died as did many during the dreadful period.
We certainly didn’t expect to find the grave of Garnie L. Grizzle. In fact, at the outset, we assured one another that we would not find a marker bearing the name Grizzle at all.
Nonetheless, we thought we would give it a try. Walking among the rows of crosses, we let instinct and fate guide us. Ironically, it was those same forces that brought Garnie L. Grizzle to the end of his life on the beaches of Normandy.