D-Day slipped past quietly a few weeks ago. People are a little more aware of it since the Tom Hanks movie, but it doesn't loom as it did when I was a kid and everybody's daddy was a WWII vet. Maybe forty years ago when life still ran in Technicolor instead of grays and muted pastels, I used to hang around some with a D-Day veteran. I see no harm in writing his name, as I doubt much of anyone remembers him today. Henry Page was a rangy, ropy kind of guy, maybe 5'10" and 165 or so. If I characterize him as you would a fighter, it's because I think he'd done some boxing. He would occasionally get into scuffles if he had a drop taken, and he would a drop take. People were a little wary of him, but I always liked him. Henry was a lantern-jawed guy with snaggly teeth and looked like an Amerind, but not a Southwestern tribe … maybe a Sioux or someone from up north. What he was was an Hispano from up in New Mexico, gringo name notwithstanding. Everyone called him Kiki, short for Enrique. We were printers and union brothers together on the El Paso Times. I gambled and drank with Henry, got into that foolishness that happens when you're young and frisky.
Henry was a terrible gambler, the kind of guy who'd play a 29-to-one horse in the last race because he needed 60 bucks to get even on the day, or who'd draw to an inside straight or take two cards to a flush. He always said, "I went ashore in the second wave on D-Day, and I figure it's all gravy since then. Why not take a chance?" He hit those longshots about as often as you'd expect, but when he did, it was to him some sort of celestial payback for the second-wave experience.
I wandered off into the bigger world and lost of track of Henry, and then maybe 20 or 25 years later slipped back onto old stomping grounds and asked a friend about Henry. He told me that a few years before, Henry had been sitting at the dinner table and his daughter had said, "Why don't you just go away and leave us alone." Henry had driven out onto a country road there in Anthony and blown his brains out with a pistol.