Proud to have a father who was part of the Greatest Generation


My Dad, Francis Burns, was one of those brave soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy. He was very young and yet he had expertise in communication codes. He never spoke much about it, but years later, when I came along, we went to a movie called The Longest Day. We saw it as a rerun, years after it came out. My Dad sat in silence and then I had the courage to say: “Daddy, were you on that beach?” He looked at me and said with reverence, “Yes, Bobby, I was there.” I said: “Daddy, you are very brave.” He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Every man on those beaches was brave. But the Chaplains were the bravest. It made no difference what your religion was, because they went to every man dying and exposed themselves to unrelenting bullets and bombs. They never took cover. They had no guns. But every man looked to them for help and consolation.”
From the beaches my Dad went on to fight in many other battles, one notable one, the Battle of the Bulge, and he and his men liberated the Nazi death camp, Buchenwald, where he met and befriended a young Elie Wiesel, who later became my friend, too. My Dad went on to fight in many other wars and yet he was never one to hate. He told me once that he never thought of dying. He only thought of helping his men and asking God to help him continue and make it home. When he came home he became part of my parish, St. Paul’s in Cranston. My Mom told me it was his faith that kept him alive. He died in 1989 and he would be proud to know that our wonderful pastor, Father Thomas Woodhouse, is a Marine who served, too. My Dad loved his country, loved his faith and family, and loved his parish, St. Paul’s. He was part of The Greatest Generation!

Professor Robert E. Burns, Cranston