Every year, fewer members of the 1st Infantry Division and other U.S. and allied units who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, are alive to commemorate the occasion.
Today, of course, marks the 70th anniversary of that historic assault, and those who were in uniform that day and are still alive are in their 80s and 90s. They deserve every accolade.
While civilians and military leaders celebrate the occasion as a pivotal moment in World War II, the soldiers who survived seem more inclined to remember lost comrades in arms than celebrate. The thousands of graves under white marble crosses or Stars of David in the cemetery near Omaha Beach stand in silent tribute to the sacrifices of so many young men.
It is fitting that many world leaders participated in today’s ceremonies, though the decades have taken their toll on the unity they once enjoyed. The enemy in 1944, Germany, is today a U.S., ally, and Russia, an ally in 1944, is hardly on speaking terms with the United States.
Today’s leaders and their citizens would do well to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers who ran or crawled their way up Normandy’s beaches that day and how different the world might be if they had not succeeded.
We also would do well to try to resurrect some of the national will that was essential for their triumph over enemies that sought to conquer the world and slaughter those they considered unworthy of living in it.
America’s soldiers have demonstrated for more than a decade that they are cut from the same cloth as those who fought in France, Italy, the Pacific and elsewhere during World War II. The same cannot be said of our leaders. They haven’t for some time shown the grit that their predecessors decades ago did. Today’s leaders seem unwilling to bend for the good of the country. And they won’t dare ask citizens or industry to make even small sacrifices, not simply to support our military but also to strengthen this still great nation — or at least to prevent it from becoming weaker.
We pause on this 70th anniversary of that monumental battle to salute those who fought and won it. That is appropriate. An even more appropriate way to truly honor them would involve setting aside our differences, so many of which are petty, and becoming again the unstoppable national force for good that our citizenry – in and out of uniform – was in World War II.