This is such a cool [true] story, I had to share it on my blog.
My grandfather, 1LT John D. Garvik, (my mom's dad) was killed-in-action shortly after the Normandy Invasion during WWII. Since my dad is a history buff (I think he owns just about every book ever written about D-Day and he's writing one) and b/c he's my mom's dad, it has become a hobby for my parents to find more details about where exactly he died in France, what tasks were assigned to him during this time -- basically anything that would give my mom (and the family) more knowledge of what he was doing when he died. Most of the information we have are the letters he wrote to my grandma during the war (but those don't contain a lot of details because of the sensitivity/confidentiality of the war) and some official army documents that were sent to my grandma after he died.
So anyway, my parents recently visited Normandy. While they were there, they came across this guy (Gary) who has done a lot of research on the 5th Rangers Infantry Battalion and he actually knows some of the surviving Veterans. My dad basically gave Gary all the information he's come across over the years about my grandfather around the time of the invasion and his death. Gary reached out to all of his Vet contacts, and one wrote a letter back!!
In the letter, this Vet (one of the 5th battalion officers) says he remembers my grandfather very well. Apparently, my grandfather was one of the original platoon leaders. Given that my grandfather died 64 years ago, you don't expect many of the people who served with him to be alive, and you certainly don't expect anyone to say that the remembered your grandfather well. Even in my own family, all of the people in my family who would have know my grandfather 'well' have passed away. My mom never even had a chance to meet him.
So far, my parents have only corresponded to officer who knew my grandpa through Gary. I really hope that in the near future my parents will have a chance to talk directly to the Vet and hopefully he can solve some of our family mystery. Even if he doesn't recall too much, or was fighting in a different area, it's still really cool to come across a guy who knew my grandpa from that time. I just can only imagine how excited my grandma would be to know about this!
The other really cool thing was that the Vet had a photo of all the 5th battalion officers taken at Fort Dix in December 1943. My grandfather is in the photo! Not only did my parents find someone who knew my grandfather well, they found someone who had a picture of him! The pictures of my grandfather have always been so important to us, because that's all we've ever had of him. This is a picture of a picture, so it's not the best quality, but you can certainly see my grandfather. Take a look -- he's in the back row, 7th from the left.