Giving thanks on this D-Day anniversary
Friday, June 06, 2014 12:00 AM
Seventy years ago today a military operation of incredible proportions took place and brought World War II to a close. That operation, D-Day, is when U.S. and Allied troops landed on the shores of Normandy, France, to turn the tide of the war.
From high atop the beachhead, German troops picked off Allied soldiers like so many farm animals herded in a pen to be slaughtered. While thousands upon thousands fell, others persevered and stayed on the mission’s task, eventually -- and against all odds -- claiming a bittersweet victory. Bodies were strewn about the beaches. Blood mixed with seawater. Supplies and personal items, such as family photographs, love letters from home and other trinkets that helped soldiers maintain some sort of connection with home and some sort of sanity in what was nothing short of a suicide mission, were mingled with the fallen.
Those who participated in the D-Day invasion, along with their WWII compatriots, are known as The Greatest Generation, thanks in large part to a book by that title written by TV journalist Tom Brokaw in 1988. That moniker is not contrived, either, and in no way slights the contributions and sacrifices of those who have served in other wars. But war is, largely, far different today than it was in World War II.
Moreover, as today marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, it also marks the anniversary of a war that is lost among many of today’s generation. The soldiers who fought and lived through the war are dying off at the rate of hundreds a day. In short, The Greatest Generation is becoming a lost generation, relegated more to history books, movies and the tales shared among closest family members who can recall the stories they heard as youngsters and as told by their fathers, grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers.
History classes and books can only provide so much information for students who, within the same allotted class time, must learn about all the wars and skirmishes that have occurred since WWII drew to a close in 1945. Unless they take a keener interest in the hell that was World War II, that war will be but a few pages in a book, a few paragraphs and questions on a test paper.
Still, we can and should hope they at least grasp the magnitude of that war and how vastly different their world would be now, today, had not so many thousands of Americans and Allied troops laid down their lives on the beaches of Normandy that day 70 years ago. Those surviving soldiers, such as Greenwood County state Sen. John Drummond, might seem to them to be nice and sweet but frail old people, but they would be wrong. Within those aged, tired and frail frames are strong people who possessed a spirit, a determination, a will that belies their outward appearance today.
And so today, on this 70th anniversary of D-Day, we salute those World War II veterans who are yet with us, we mourn those who have passed and we solemnly give thanks to those who sacrificed their lives in order to ensure a far better and safer world for us all.