Revisiting D-Day with 17-time Vantage Traveler Cedric Hustace

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Vantage Travel Team June 2, 2020

June 6, 2020 marked the 76th anniversary of the American landings on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, during World War II. To commemorate the event, we chatted with 17-time Vantage traveler Cedric Hustace, who traveled in 2019 on France Culinary Delights: Paris to Normandy and visited the very beach where his brother came ashore on June 6, 1944 — otherwise known as D-Day. Here's what he told us:

It was only by chance that my dear, late brother Richard Hustace slogged ashore that fateful day as a Browning automatic rifleman (BAR). He’d intended to take the luxurious route and fly to France. Richard was a heck of a guy. Great sense of humor. He’d been in the fight as an infantryman since Pearl Harbor. In Europe, he’d worked his way, battle by battle, up the Italian peninsula as an infantryman, lugging his heavy BAR, the main firepower of his squad.

By 1944, he thought he needed a change of occupation, so he entered glider school in England. But as luck would have it, he washed out of that school shortly before June 6 and, you guessed it, he hit the Normandy beaches as an infantryman lugging his trusty BAR amid a hail of bullets. That turn of events may have saved his life because the glider crews didn’t fare so well in flying and landing. Richard later distinguished himself behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, he became a superb javelinist and shot putter at Southern Methodist University. And always, he was the consummate good sport, who would not tolerate any competitor with a foul mouth. I had four brothers who were in the military during WWII. I was very close to all of them. Some were wounded, but all survived the war.

My wife Carol and I had been to Normandy in 1958 while I was stationed in the Army in Heidelberg, Germany. I’ll always remember Normandy because our MG-A got a flat tire along the road, and I had to change the tire in the rain.

Re-visiting Normandy — and recreating it in paint
Returning to Omaha Beach was a fascinating experience. Somber in many respects. The military cemetery was magnificent. Our two daughters and our son-in-law, who were retired Navy officers, and I, a retired Army man, participated in a memorial service there. Not a dry eye in the crowd.

Carol and I have been on numerous Vantage trips — river cruises as well as land trips. All have been super. I have numerous paintings from all of them. I’ve done art and music since I was a kid, and I always take high resolution photos with a Sony camera on our Vantage trips, including our Seine River cruise.

Each day, I put those photos into albums on my iPad. If I’m going to do ink and watercolor studies during the trip, I work from the iPad. So far as acrylic on canvas paintings are concerned, I paint those after the trip when I’m back home in Evansville.

My painting, “Omaha Beach 2019,” features a scene very close to the rugged D-Day monument on the beach. Also, Cimetière Américain de Colleville-sur-Mer, the large American military cemetery, is nearby but further up from the beach with a commanding view of the shoreline. At that lovely, shaded resting place, 9,388 young Americans lie in eternal peace.

Knowing Richard, I’m sure he would have wanted me to paint the seascape at Omaha Beach as it is today with kids and families enjoying the surf and shallows. After all, that’s why young men like Richard took the beach at great cost in the first place. Freedom, peace, and happiness!

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