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Medals honor D-Day service

May 28, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

HALFWAY - World War II veterans Jack Shriver and Richard Flook remember the waves lapping over barbed wire booby traps.

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They remember holding their rifles high while wading through cold water to reach Omaha beach in Normandy soon after their fellow American soldiers stormed the shore on D-Day.

They remember the floating bodies and the mine-filled marshes - even if they don't want to.

"I don't like to think much about the war," said Shriver, 77. "I've got better things to dream about."

Flook, 84, said the memories keep bubbling to the surface.

"I dream so much about the war - especially here recently," he said.

The local veterans were among the 3 million Allied troops who helped expel Nazi occupiers and liberate Europe during Operation Overlord from June 6 to Aug. 31, 1944.

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They met for the first time at Shriver's Halfway home one week before they were slated to receive medals for their valor 55 years before.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., R-Md., on Thursday will present Flook, Shriver and about 20 other Operation Overlord participants from Maryland with the Jubilee of Liberty Medal at a ceremony in Towson, Md.

The Regional Council of Normandy gave the medal to D-day veterans during a 50th anniversary commemorative ceremony in France.

Flook and Shriver said they have mixed feelings about the honor.

"Medals don't mean much to me," Shriver said. "The people that should get the medals are those guys that are still over there in those graves and in the (Veterans Affairs) hospitals."

Flook, of Hagerstown, agreed.

But the ceremony offers an opportunity for fellowship, the veterans said.

"It's hard to find people to talk to who can relate to your experiences," Shriver said.

He and Flook, both former Army sergeants, spent several hours swapping war stories that ranged from combat to race relations to meeting famous military heroes.

Shriver talked about setting up air defenses and digging a hole to house artillery on Omaha Beach. He remembered the seaweed that sprouted from the sand as he followed in the footsteps of mine detectors to investigate a downed plane.

Shriver recalled off-duty dances, running out of artillery, and commissioning a German farmer's Mercedes Benz convertible to ride "in style" through the Black Forest with the French Army.

"The biggest thrill I got was meeting (Gen. George S.) Patton" on the peninsula at Cherbourg, France, Flook said. "He was very nice."

The former combat engineer's voice trailed into silence as he remembered occupying the Nazi concentration camps that witnessed so many atrocities. He recalled his fear while crawling on the ground as rounds from a high-velocity German 88 mm flak gun whizzed above his head.

"I think it was a bad experience for everyone," Shriver said. "I don't look back."

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