On June 6, 1944 thousands of American soldiers lost their lives during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. On the 60th anniversary of D-Day, a soldier from Dearing helped celebrate the sacrifices made that day.
Justin Boyles, a 2003 graduate of Thomson High School, graduated from basic training at Fort Benning in September of last year. He was transferred to Landsthul, Germany in January and recently promoted to private first class.
But it was being chosen to participate in the Normandy Memorial that truly made him proud.
"It touched me knowing that so many lives were lost at that time and that it's been sixty years," Pfc. Boyles said via telephone from his base in Germany. "Seeing the vets walking around, it really touched me. It made me feel good that I'm serving my country and doing something that they did."
If Pfc. Boyles is proud to be serving his country in this capacity, there is no word to describe what his mother Sharon Boyles is feeling. Although she had reservations about him joining the military, Mrs. Boyles was quick to share her son's accomplishments.
"I hope you all will help me congratulate him on his recent promotion to Pfc. and his being chosen to participate in the Normandy Memorial. Job well done, son," Mrs. Boyles wrote in an email to The Augusta Chronicle.
A platoon from Pfc. Boyles' unit was attached to the 212 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital or M.A.S.H. that was sent to Omaha Beach from June 1 through June 8 as part of the D-Day ceremonies. The hospital was overlooking a cliff on the beach that was stormed by allied forces 60 years ago.
Pfc. Boyles' job is in patient administration. That includes admitting patients to the hospital and making sure they are taken care of through that process.
Being included in the celebration of the battle that shifted the tide of World War II and changed the fate of the world had its effect on Pfc. Boyles.
"It means a lot to me," he said. "First of all being in the military, and then it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to go to a place that they're celebrating 60 years of a won battle, a won war."
During the time he spent in Normandy, Pfc. Boyles was able to walk the grounds at Omaha Beach. What he saw was history preserved in time and proof of the ultimate sacrifice made by soldiers in a battle they knew they had to win.
"Seeing the rubble that was left over there, it was amazing," he said. "On the beach of Omaha, when the tide goes out, you can still see some of the carriers that actually carried the men up to the shore. Some of them are still left there."
Some of the soldiers that lost their lives still lie entombed in the soil of Normandy. Pfc. Boyles was moved by the sight of the cemetery at Normandy where more than 9,000 people are buried.
All of the sights and sounds of the week led him to one conclusion about those celebrating D-Day back home, the ones that couldn't be on hand for the memorial in France.
"They should be proud to be an American," he said.