By Colonel Eric Robyn, Aide to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, 1983-1985
As Aide to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), 1983-1985, I was privileged to accompany General Bernard Rogers (Commandant of Cadets when we graduated) on every trip he made. One of the most memorable was to the 40th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion at Normandy on 6 June 1984.
I had delivered Gen Rogers to the dignitaries’ waiting tent, where kings, queens, prime ministers and a host of other VIPs could mix and mingle prior to the ceremony. This was the occasion of Reagan’s famous Boys of Pointe Du Hoc speech. To get to the VIP reviewing stand on the bluff overlooking the beach, I hopped on a bus already very crowded with aides and reporters, including Sam Donaldson, well-known ABC White House correspondent. So I stood near the front of the bus by the driver, talking with President Reagan’s Press Secretary, Ron Speakes, ready to hop off and get to the reviewing stand quickly. When the bus stopped, I was just beginning to step off when Sam Donaldson bulled his way through the bus, pushing everyone aside so he could be first off. He elbowed Speakes and me aside and ran down the steps. It was one of the rudest displays I remember since grade school!
When I got to the reviewing stand, it was starting to fill up with VIPs, so I stood to the side, with no one else around, saluting these heads of state as they walked by me to take their seats. It was quite a show. As these notable dignitaries, including Maggie Thatcher, passed before me, few even acknowledged the presence of a lowly US Army major. Then I noticed President Reagan, unaccompanied, walking toward the stand and right in front of me, about 10 feet away. I stood at attention and saluted, as I had for the other heads of state, not expecting any return gesture. Instead, he looked right at me, smiled his famous broad smile, nodded as if to say thank you, and snapped off a crisp military salute. It made my day to be recognized by our Commander-In-Chief.
Bill Bahr, H-1 says
Thanks for your memories! 4WIW, here’s a video of Reagan’s speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEIqdcHbc8I
Please let us know if you show up anywhere in the video or your photo on that historic day.
Best regards & BOTL,
Marianne Ivany says
Eric, I’m so glad you shared this story! Whenever anyone asks Bob, “What was it like to work with President Reagan?”, Bob always responds the same way. . . “Reagan always treated everyone with dignity and respect.; from the butler to the Queen of England “
Fred Dibella says
Spot on Eric about RR, a wonderful man, and Donaldson was a class A jerk. Never missed an opportunity to stick Reagan with “gotcha” questions. Didn’t think it possible to be a worse journalist, until today’s crop surfaced from the swamp….
DENIS GULAKOWSKI says
A most interesting story! Thanks for sharing.
That begs the question, had you voted for him?
Pete Grimm says
Great story, Eric! Every now and them you get to be a small part of memorable history. Thanks for sharing. Please keep sharing your personal stories with us.
Bob Jannarone says
Wonderful story, Eric, adding to the legacy of President Reagan.
Geoff Prosch says
Thank you for sharing this story.
One of the greatest honors during my Army service was to command President Reagan’s honor unit for the D Day 40th ceremony at Utah Beach 6 June 1984 (2-28th Infantry (Black Lions)) — on the beach with 6 other allied heads of state and WW2 allied nation army ceremonial units.
After the ceremony, President Reagan broke away from the departing official party (Queen Elizabeth and the Secret Service seemed aghast), walked onto the beach, up to our unit, saluted, and said “Thank you for your outstanding performance today representing America. I am proud to be your Commander in Chief.”
Reagan followed up (thanks to Bob Kimmitt who was working in the White House) with a signed picture and a letter of appreciation — which we hung in the mess hall.