The troops crossed the English Channel and performed amphibious landings on five beaches on the Normandy coast in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. Many died before they ever reached the beach; thousands more bled out on the sand. And yet they continued to come. They faced insurmountable odds, staunch Nazi entrenchments, and seeming certain death. Bullets spat into the dirt and splashed into the water, and shells and mortars exploded around them. Their fellow soldiers and friends died beside them. And yet they continued to come.
They fought for freedom—for themselves, for their families, and for men and women around the world, men and women they had never met, men and women whose descendants three-quarters of a century later would look down their noses with disdain at the country that had provided their salvation…the country without which they would not have a country. And yet they continued to come. There is a reason these sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, and uncles—now our grandfathers and great-grandfathers—are known as the Greatest Generation. They fought for love of country, for duty.
And they were not alone. Thousands more had invaded Axis Europe from the south, coming ashore in Sicily and moving north through Italy. In the Pacific Theater, they were joined by tens of thousands more who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, Midway, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. They fought on the beaches, in the fields, in the jungles, and in the cities. They were killed, wounded, and captured. They left wives, children, parents, and the comforts of home.
Sadly, many in my generation are ignorant of D-Day. They are unaware of the sacrifices made so that they can live their lives unhindered by tyranny and oppression. The courage and bravery on display that day are something many of us can only imagine. Many others are very familiar with the courage and bravery, and with the sacrifices necessary to maintain freedom, having made those sacrifices themselves. But in a day and age when history is up for debate, when American exceptionalism is considered a blight, when reality TV stars are seen as heroes, and when anything that can’t be viewed on a smartphone is considered antiquated, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to make sure that true heroes are remembered, honored, and celebrated. We must not—we WILL not—forget them or their sacrifice.