Photo, video and article by Megan Cole // Staff Writer
As one frail man sits in a wooden rocking chair outside of his Gordonsville, Tennessee home about 42 miles from Murfreesboro, he gazes with his bright blue eyes at the American flag flying from his front porch. Wearing a gray cardigan and a bent smile, this World War II veteran once put everything out on the line. While everything was at stake, freedom, democracy, mom and apple pie, a 21-year-old Ivy Agee Jr. would pick up his load and storm the beaches of Omaha.
Many World War II soldiers have done their best to forget about the war. Every horrific memory escapes with each passing day and more of these stories wash away with the sand, untold.
June 6, 1944, 75 years ago to the day, thousands of soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy, France. The Allied invasion of Normandy happened during Operation Overlord. This battle, codenamed Operation Neptune, is more commonly known as D-Day.
According to US Department of Veterans Affairs, 496,777 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2018 and 348 of those veterans die. Every. Single. Day.
“If God is with me then who can be against me?” Agee said, noting these words from Romans 8:31 helped get him through the war.
Agee, now 96-years-old, has spoken to large crowds about his experiences, given speeches all over the world and even been the subject of a history project for his grandson. While he may provide some insight to what he saw on D-Day, Agee still treads the waters lightly when he tells his story.
He served for 34 months for the United States Army. His specific mission on D-Day was to be a part of the earlier waves of the assault on Omaha Beach. Agee served as a communications specialist and forward observer with the 111th Field Artillery Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division.
Agee can still recall watching thousands of his fellow soldiers die right before his eyes. Leaving their bodies on the beach would haunt Agee for the rest of his life.
“It was awful because there was so much blood,” Agee said. “With my comrades being dead, I just had to pass over them and leave them there. It just did something to me inside. I couldn’t get over it.”
His family said that there is never a day where he doesn’t think about the horrors he went through. If anything comes on the TV that makes Agee go back, it doesn’t take him long to change the channel.
“I was trying to forget about it,” Agee said.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when he began talking about his experiences and even to this day, there are things that Agee will leave at Omaha Beach forever.
Virginia Agee, his wife of 77 years, kept her husband (or as she likes to call him, Junior) going all through the war.
Agee insisted that instead of remembering anything about him, that he wants others to, “Remember my dear wife. She’s been my whole life and I couldn’t have made it without her.”
The 96-year-old reached out his hand to touch his wife’s and said, “I would dream about her at night. We just loved each other really good.”
Agee has surrounded himself with American symbols within his home. From photos of the American flag, a miniature Uncle Sam by his living room chair and other assorted star-spangled banner items, there is one patriotic item that serves as a constant reminder of his time overseas.
A glass bottle half filled with sand from Omaha Beach sits on a table as you enter the front door of Agee’s home. In handwritten letters it says, “Sand from Omaha Beach 2004 Ivy Agee.”
Agee said he has been back to the beaches five times, but whenever he looks at the bottle of sand it brings him back to one of the most pivotal days in world history.
Family, faith and love for his country will always be front and center for this hometown hero.
“Oh yeah, I’m proud to be American,” Agee said. “I’m glad I did what I did. I’m not sorry about anything I did because I was doing it for my country and for God. I think God was with me all the way through it or I wouldn’t have made it.”
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