Hidden Enemy

It is June 5, 1944. You have spent the last several days waiting on pins and needles for this moment. You and thousands of others are fully dressed in battle gear weighing nearly 100 pounds. Thick, leather boots cover your feet and a heavy thick uniform clothes your body. Your backpack contains enough supplies to last for several days, not to mention your gun and ammunition. Right now you’re sitting among strangers, cramped into a landing craft, many of whom you will never see again after tomorrow morning. Everyone is seasick, claustrophobic, and terrified. Even though you have spent the last several weeks training for this mission, you are still not fully prepared for what is to come, for the unknown enemy you are about to fight.
Finally, the general gives the command, and the first wave of ships begins the trek across the channel. It is a rough ride; the soldiers are becoming violently seasick, and after being cramped in the landing craft for nearly 24 hours, are exhausted. But there is still work to do. The landing craft has reached its appointed spot. Yours was lucky. Many fell victim to the obstacles planted by the Germans and sank. Some were shot. The door to the landing craft opens and freezing cold seawater rushes in taking your breath away, but you cannot stop, you must keep going, you must survive. As you are trudging through the water with all your gear you must be alert, watching for obstacles, watching for bodies. You make it to the beach, but the journey is far from over. The beach is littered with fellow soldiers, some wounded, some dead. But you cannot stop to save them, you can only save yourself. As you run up the beach, you are dodging bodies, barbed wire, gunfire, tanks, and land mines. Shots rain down from the unseen enemy protected in concrete above. But somehow, you get through unscathed. Your body is about to give out from sheer exhaustion and fear, but your will to live will keep you going. You cannot stop now, you must persevere. Now, all you have left to conqueror is the thick vegetation covering a 150 foot or so vertical wall. And you do. Once, over the cliff and in a safe spot, you glance back to see where you were, and how far you came to get to safety. You persevered against an unknown, unseen enemy trying to kill you. Fast forward 65 years to Thanksgiving weekend 2009 and I too “fought” for my life against an unknown and unseen enemy.
My family and I had eaten dinner at a Mexican restaurant on a Friday night. I ordered chicken tacos, nothing special, but quite tasty. The next morning, I woke up and could not open my eyes, except for just the tiniest crack. I happened to glance down and look at my hands, and could not figure out why they looked so big. I got out of bed and went to look in the mirror to figure out why I was unable to fully open my eyes, and to my surprise, found my nose larger than normal. I then went into panic mode because I was fairly certain that my nose was definitely not as big as it appeared that morning in the mirror. I ran out to the kitchen to find my parents eating breakfast, and their cheerful expressions quickly changed to looks of panic. According to my mom, my eyes were swollen almost shut; my face, lips, tongue, hands, arms, and feet were also swollen, and hives covered my body. I was a sight. My mom immediately called the pediatrician, who told her to take me to the emergency room immediately as I was having a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Those were not exactly the words any parent wants to hear, nor did I. We were off to the ER in a matter of minutes.
The ER doctor confirmed that, yes; it was a severe life-threatening allergic reaction, and if we had waited too much longer to come in, I quite possibly could have died. He gave me some steroids to help stop the reaction from getting worse, and wrote me a prescription for a lovely device called the epi-pen, a steroid shot you give to yourself to stop an allergic reaction, and told us to go see the pediatrician as soon as possible. Being absolutely terrified of needles, I was not terribly excited about the epi-pen. Thankfully, the medicine the ER gave me successfully stopped the reaction from getting worse.
A few days later, I went to see my pediatrician about the allergic reaction. He, too, was puzzled by the whole thing since I did not have any known food allergies, and chicken tacos were not a strange thing for me to eat. He recommended I go to see an allergy specialist, and also have an allergy test. The test showed I am allergic to avocadoes and melons, but not severely enough to cause the type of reaction I had. The Allergy Specialist was equally puzzled by the whole episode, and even went as far as calling the restaurant to see what exactly was in the chicken tacos. Her best conclusion was that some type of contaminant in the food caused the reaction.
Although my allergic reaction and the battle of D-Day are two very different events, they are very similar. To this day, I still do not know what caused the life-threatening allergic reaction, but through it all, I, like the soldiers on D-Day who made it to safety, have persevered through it all. My body was fighting an unknown “enemy” just like the soldiers. To be told the cause of your allergy is unknown and that the next reaction will be far worse than the first one is terrifying, but that has not stopped me from living, just as the fear of being killed during D-Day did not stop many soldiers from persevering through the battle and coming out alive. By persevering, overcoming obstacles, not necessarily a battle, but everyday things, that seem impossible to get through, can be overcome.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Normandy beaches this summer. Standing and looking over that cliff down to the beach was really amazing. It was incredible to stand and look over the cliff at a pristine beach where thousands died. But it was also incredible to realize that many survived the battle and made it up the cliff to safety. You can say they were lucky, but really, that’s only part of the story. There is also, something more; they persevered through it all, fighting with all they had to survive.





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