What is remarkable is not that the massive European battle launched on D-Day was successful, or that so many brave servicemen sacrificed themselves to secure liberty. What is remarkable 63 years later is that our remembrance of June 6, 1944, is almost nonexistent.
Perhaps it’s because the veterans who so nobly served and the civilians whose freedoms were secured as a result are aging. Perhaps it’s because the battles those veterans experienced were so horrific, they have largely kept them to themselves for so many years. Perhaps it’s because it’s so easy for others who came along later to take their sacrifices for granted.
Some 200,000 military servicemen were involved in the Normandy Invasion in 1944, and those who remain with us to share their experiences during that battle — as well as that war — are dwindling to a relative precious few. These are heroes who were fortunate enough to return home after they performed admirably in doing their duty for their nation, and assumed normal lives as business people, parents and pillars of their communities.
Only recently have younger generations recognized them for what they’ve done, not only on the battlefield but also in American society. But even then, that recognition is fleeting, and anything but universal.
It is important to remember D-Day for what these brave warriors did, but also for what might have happened if they had not succeeded. What would the second half of the 20th century been like if ruthless dictators had achieved their goals of world supremacy? What would the fate of freedom have been? What if those who cherished liberty had failed to answer the call when others were threatened? Hindsight suggests sobering answers to those questions.
Our country is divided today over its current conflicts, but there should be no division about the men and women who serve, and especially about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in every generation.
Americans don’t need another official holiday on which, for the most part, lip-service will be given to remembering its military veterans while pursuing recreational activities on a three-day weekend. But these pivotal dates must not pass into historic oblivion. As the years pass, that will be too easy to happen.
The liberty of millions have been preserved thanks to veterans who faced their own “D-Days” throughout history, and the 1944 D-Day was among the most significant of them all. We can’t say “thank you” often enough, on this or on any day.