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“Request permission to go ashore, sir!” Captain John H. Lea, III ’80, his daughter, Allison, and his wife, Kate, are piped ashore while a ship’s bell

tolls four times in honor of his retirement.

32

LYCOMING COLLEGE 2014 FALL MAGAZINE

F E AT U R E S

banners festooned window sills and

town squares. U.S. Air Force Hercules

aircraft repeatedly swooped in at treetop

level, adding a thrilling touch of modern

American air power to the festivities. It

was a military historian’s delight.

The high point of the trip was D-Day

itself. We had to roll out early before the

highway connecting Caen and Bayeux

was shut down, and we found ourselves

on the sacred sands of Omaha Beach

by the dawn’s early light. There were

veterans in wheelchairs and re-enactors

in period uniforms everywhere. Jeeps

and halftracks were running up and

down the beach and warships from

various Allied nations dotted the

horizon.

Jack Lea’s retirement ceremony was

profoundly moving. It was held on the

beach near the Les Moulins draw at St.

Laurent-sur-Mer, in front of a massive

sculpture entitled “Les Braves,” on

the very spot where so many young

Americans fought and died and began

the liberation of Europe seven decades

ago. Colonel Ellicott officiated, Dr.

Larson read a special prayer written

for the occasion by former Dean of

the College Dr. John F. Piper, Jr.,

Pennsylvania Senator Dave Argall

’80 gave the benediction, and Trustee

Bill Evans ’72, a retired Colonel in the

Public Health Service, and I served as

the color guard, holding American and

U.S. Navy flags steady against a stiff

breeze blowing in from the Channel. In

accordance with Navy tradition, Jack

read his own retirement order at the end

of the ceremony, then turned to Colonel

Ellicott, saluted, and said “request

permission to go ashore, sir.” Those

words took on bone-chilling significance

on that sacrificial site.

Jack remained in uniform for the rest

of the day and everywhere we went total

strangers came up to him and thanked

him for his service. He participated

in the lowering of the American flag

ceremony at the Normandy American

Cemetery that evening and posed for

pictures with adoring French children

afterwards. It was truly a day to

remember.

We ended our excellent battlefield

adventure in Paris with visits to the Eiffel

Tower, the French Army Museum and

Napoleon’s tomb, and a dinner cruise

on the Seine. On our last night together,

Jack did what chaplains do so well. We

were sitting in a large circle in our hotel’s

lounge, and he asked each member of

the group to describe what the trip had

meant to them. It was a cathartic moment.

Our conversations continued the next

morning and a consensus emerged. The

trip underscored that there is something

unique and very special about a Lycoming

College education, an education that does

not stop at graduation. The friendships

Lycoming students forge with their

professors last a lifetime. You rarely see

that at universities where hundreds of

students are packed into lecture halls.

Professors such as Dr. Larson and the

kind of alumni I met on this trip make it

happen, but none of it would be possible

were it not for the efforts of the trustees

and the college leadership to create an

educational environment in which such

relationships can develop and flourish.