This Memorial Day we remember the over one million Americans who laid down their lives in military service to our country. To borrow a phrase from General Douglas MacArthur: we don’t know the dignity of their births, but we know the nobility of their deaths. They died serving in a cause greater than themselves, so that our country, dedicated to securing the peoples’ God-given rights, could move forward towards its high calling.
For all the times America has fallen short over its lifetime of nearly two-and-a-half centuries, none can deny the hope and the opportunity and the freedom this nation has brought forth not only on our shores, but to tens of millions of people around the world. We are blessed to live in such a land; it truly has been a “Shining City on a Hill. “
In a few weeks, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which was one of the many decisive moments when Americans made the ultimate sacrifice to advance the cause of freedom. In Normandy, the United States and its allies fought to rescue an enslaved Europe from a maniacal dictator hell-bent on dominating the planet and eliminating an entire race of people. The scale of the operation was vast, involving over 5000 ships, 175,000 soldiers, and 10,000 aircraft.
General Dwight Eisenhower stated the mission clearly to his soldiers, sailors, and airmen soon to be engaged in Operation Overlord:
The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
In a nationwide radio broadcast that evening, President Franklin Roosevelt asked all Americans to join him in prayer for those in the battle:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith….Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom…Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Thousands gave their lives on Normandy’s shores on June 6th, 1944 and by the time the World War II was over, 400,000 Americans would never be returning home.
While thankfully in our time we have not had to endure that staggering loss of life, none-the-less thousands of homes this day will be missing the smile and the embrace of a father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister who made the ultimate sacrifice.
As Ronald Reagan so eloquently stated on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day regarding the great heroes who fought for this country, “Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”
This beautiful song performed by the West Point Glee Club is a fitting tribute to those whom we have loved and lost in war:
Ronald Reagan’s Boys of Pointe Du Hoc Speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1984: