GORUCK Normandy HTL, The Light
We were giddy as we arrived back at Omaha Beach for the last five hours of our journey. The Light is supposed to have a 100% pass rate. It’s not easy, but we knew we were in the clear now. Our attitudes improved even more when we arrived and saw more new faces (a/k/a fresh shoulders to carry heavy shit). Now it’s time to have some fun. Every single ounce of everything in us can be left on the beach.
The admin went the same as the last two events, except this one included a lot more smiles. Jen’s ruck was full of shitty French beer which I hoped we would get into soon. The sky cleared, the sun peeked out and the temperature rose higher than it had been all week. The waves rolled back to reveal a huge beach; what the men of D-Day saw when they arrived at low tide. The pain of the last 45 hours just faded away.
A ceremony began at the monument. We were told to kneel and watch as an older man was presented an award of some sort while a wreath was laid on the monument. We all clapped as he received his award and we learned that he was an eight-year- old boy the day the Allied forces arrived to liberate his family and his homeland. To honor his liberators, he opened a museum which he ran for 60 years. This was his retirement ceremony.
The team leader and assistant team leader were appointed—a young new couple, both of whom looked pretty fit and capable of completing a full HTL. Not sure why they just showed up for the Light. Maybe they were just smart. We snatched up all the heavy shit and began our few miles march along the beach to the American cemetery. The walk hurt bad. My feet and shoulders were cooked. But the end was in sight and I couldn’t stop smiling and talking shit to my teammates.
After a tough climb up a steep hill we arrived at the American cemetery where we were given a thirty-minute break to visit the cemetery. All the pain of the last forty-six hours built up to this point, and as we looked out across the white crosses, we couldn’t help but tear up. Hotspot and I started looking for fallen soldiers from South Carolina. After finding a couple we stopped to pray, thanking God for the freedoms he has bestowed upon us through the lives of men like these. That’s when those huge planes from day one started low flyovers across the cemetery, over and over and over. The small drops in my eyes became real tears falling down my face, something I couldn’t help from happening.
The minutes of our break ticked down and we regrouped where we dropped all our coupons. We began the walk back to the beach, stopping half way to take in the view. The ocean was at low tide revealing a beach two football fields long; something we didn’t see during the Tough. This is where the Germans would have looked out at our boys storming the beach, easy targets for them to gun down. From this view we wondered how anyone survived, as we watched tourists walk along the beach and the planes continued flying overhead.
For the first time during the event we felt the sun hit our faces and the temperature seemed to have jumped twenty degrees. For the first time we looked forward to getting into our Higgins boats. And luckily for us, that’s exactly what the cadres had planned next. Here’s where we had fun for the first time in 48 hours. I was made a Higgins boat leader and Hotspot was made our platoon leader. For the third time, we waded back into the water up to our waists, but this time we hit a sandbar, so we kept walking. We were much farther out than the first two times. The cadre started splashing water on us and we bobbed up and down. The pretend gate dropped and we darted for the shore; across the sandbar, back into waist-deep water and then finally the shore. Out of breath, we hit the sand where I led our group up the beach with bounds and low crawls as if bullets were flying above and shells exploding beside us. We moved seamlessly and I was giddy. Cadre Mickey said, “Good job. That was fast. You can stop here.” For the first time during the event, I disobeyed; saying “No sir, you said to get my men off the beach.” He laughed as I pushed my men to the dunes for cover. We laid down cover for our brothers and sisters still on the beach.
After the fun we paused for the normal sand map and explanation of D-Day by Cadre Dan. We asked the cadre if we could wash off and he said no, yet some dumbasses did so anyway. Fucking blue falcons. So the cadre punished us by making sugar cookies, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each of us had to roll around in the sand until every single inch of our bodies, including hair and faces, was covered in sand.
We began the walk back to our Endex point and my feet hurt like a son of a bitch. My shoes were full of dirt and mud was grinding into my blisters. We reached the end where our families waited. I had never been so happy to see Elizabeth and Harlowe. I cried, again.
The cadre weren’t done with us yet and we were so happy that we didn’t care at all. We were on cloud nine. They put us back in the water for more PT including push-ups, rucking chairs, squats with rucks overhead, flutter kicks and a few other things I don’t remember. By the way, doing flutter kicks facing the ocean is really difficult when waves are crashing and water is going up your nose. Do flutters facing the beach.
The non-HTL folks were patched as we did more PT. Then it was our turn, only 16 left out of 36 who went in. Harlowe played on the beach while Elizabeth stood near the water, watching us, still in the water, hugging each other and the cadre. We were patched with our Light and our HTL patches as the rest of the crew cheered.
Holy shit. We made it!