June 6, 2014
Have We Lost The Legacy of D-Day?
Frankly, I was amazed to discover that there are no exact figures for casualties on that momentous day. The numbers vary and are taken from the rough and approximate estimates made on the ground during the battle. Conservative calculations have put the total figure at 9,000 casualties, with U.S. forces suffering over half of the casualties; the British, nearly a third; and the Canadians experiencing the balance. British statistics quote a figure closer to 11,000 dead.
As this historic day begins to fade in the memory of the American experience, it is my fear that this, and future, generations will lose sight of the significance of the great accomplishments by our brave men on those foreign shores. For those of us who have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan, we have a taste of what it must have been like to storm the beaches under heavy enemy fire. I have read about survivors who describe the seas that day as "blood-red and full of floating bodies".
Little did these men know that, in essence, they were part of something even bigger. The part they played in the war would eventually serve to catapult America on her historical path toward an enduring role in global affairs, a prominent presence in post-war Europe, and its first major alliance with world powers. Their sacrifice on that historic and devastating day was symbolic of the impact America would have on the world for decades. It was and is an honorable legacy.
But, as sad as it makes me, I must ask this question .... Have we squandered that glorious legacy? Are we that same America that embodied freedom to millions of Europeans? History records that one week shy of her 15th birthday, an excited Jewish girl in Amsterdam named Anne Frank described in the June 6th, 1944 entry to her diary how she and her family huddled around a radio in their attic hideaway to hear details of the invasion. "This is the day," she wrote. " . . . I have the feeling friends are approaching."
Are we still seen as "friends" by those who believe in freedom and sovereign nations? Yes, the legacy still existed when this country helped secure the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe a mere 45 years later. We were still seen as the bastion of hope and promise. But do our allies still look upon us with that same optimism and trust? Have we continued the Greatest Generation's legacy of "exceptionalism" over these last 25 years?
And we must never forget that what those men accomplished on those beaches 70 years ago was not "normal"; it was truly exceptional. And I am afraid that as the last of them leaves this earth, we will lose another signpost of our remarkable and unparalleled American character. I pray that we can maintain a remnant of their bequest to us; that as long as we nurture their memory, we stand a chance to reproduce the hope they offered the world. In many ways, 70 years seems so long ago; literally, a lifetime. But look how quickly we have wasted what cost them so much. They deserve our efforts to preserve their legacy, and only with God's help can we repay the price.
Psalm 33:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!"