By: Matthias Baudinet
Here in Lake Placid, Florida where I am spending the second-half of my summer, I have gotten the privilege to meet all sorts of unique, interesting, and amazing people. One of them is Paul Carroll, an 88 year old World War II veteran who lives right in the area that I work in. I met this ordinary, everyday hero at a local restaurant in Lake Placid, Florida, where we were watching a game of the FIFA World Cup; France v. Nigeria.
Being from France, I cheered for my home country against Nigeria. That is when I heard comments from a couple young men at the bar saying that the French suck at everything, and that “we should have let the Germans keep control of France during the war.” I stood up and walked over to their area and explained that their comments were ignorant and that I was in fact a Frenchman. They laughed and told me that “your country is nothing but a bunch of (insert curse word here).”
That is when this elderly gentleman came up and told those guys to sit down and respect me, because they had no idea what they were talking about. Retired US Army Major Paul Carroll explained to them that he was a World War II veteran who was involved and took part in the Normandy landings in 1944. “The French soldiers that I had the privilege of landing with in Normandy were some of the bravest soldiers that I have ever met in my life time. They saved my life, and I will be forever in their debt.” The young men were in shock and did not say a thing.
I too, was in shock, but also grateful that this man put those ignorant boys in their place. At that time, it was a little over a month after the 70th anniversary of the landings, and so we talked about the history of it, and he told me his personal account of his time in Nazi-Occupied France. It certainly was a day that I will never forget. His actions in Normandy helped France rid herself of her German invaders and finally be free once again. To me, it is crazy that so many ordinary young men, fought and died to make the world free during World War II. “Not all heroes wear capes.”
Additionally, I really think that these veterans who gave risked their lives for their country, and the freedom of other countries should be better taken cared of by the Veterans Office. Paul Carroll used to live in Ohio, but moved to Florida after he was repeatedly denied his right to vote in the 2012 elections because the poll workers doubted the validity of his ID–that ID card was his veterans ID. The fact that veterans (and other citizens) have to go through these kinds of things is just absurd.
Meeting Paul Carroll is certainly one of the highlights of my summer. I thank him for his service for a greater good, and all others who risked/gave their lives for the freedom of others.