(Photo credit: "In memory of" by Iain Farrell is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II which turned the tide for the Allied effort. It did not start off well, and over 4,000 soldiers lost their lives during the battle, but it poked a hole in the German defenses that led to victory about a year later. If you don’t remember the details, take two minutes and watch this https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day.
It is hard for modern Americans to understand the importance of this event, in part because we are living the lives we lead as a result of what these soldiers and sailors prevented. We are living their victory, and therefore can only glimpse opaquely for what they died to stop. Commentator Scott Simon summed this up well https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105064196.
We ask Americans to “never forget” so that “history won’t repeat itself”, but how can we really show our thanks for the sacrifice if we don’t fully understand what they did, if we don’t take the time to listen to the fighters before they are all gone (the youngest ones are in the mid-90s now). https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/the-lasting-impact-of-war-video
There is no number of thank yous we can offer that will match how they saved the world. But the best thing we can do is ensure their sacrifice was not in vain. They did a job, and that job preserved our world, and in particular our nation’s way of life.
Do you appreciate what you have as an American citizen? The ability to vote nearly unfettered, the right to choose your vocation, the fact that the textbooks (while never getting all things right) don’t hide the ugliest sins of our past? These are things we take for granted! Yet in nations around the world those choices are not allowed, those freedoms not practiced. No, the United States doesn’t get everything right, and we have lots of flaws, but we continue to march toward more truth, freedom for more people. Yes, sometimes it is one step forward and two steps back, but often it’s not.
So this is how you honor D-Day: participate in the democracy they saved for you. Do your part to make this nation live up to Constitutional principle of making “a more perfect union.” Find ways big and small to show you believe in the Declaration of Independence’s unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And imagine for just a minute the world without these values.