D-Day Is A Time To Reflect

For the past decade or more, I have been on the Board of an organization, Friends of the World War II Memorial, that helps sponsor events at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Though we co-sponsor five days of national commemoration with the National Park Service, including Veterans Day and Memorial Day, perhaps our biggest event took place this year with the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.

D-Day is not an official holiday in the United States. The Post Office stays open, kids go to school and life goes on as usual. Yet, something deep in the American psyche is touched on D-Day. The nation can’t or won’t let it go.

Everything, of course, about what happened on D-Day was big: the largest amphibious attack force in world history, the courage displayed in places like Omaha Beach and Point Du Hoc, the decision to delay the invasion for a day because of the weather, the struggle to get off the beaches in Normandy and begin the liberation of Europe. Freedom itself was at stake and victory wasn’t guaranteed.

But today what seems to motivate its remembrance by Americans is the nostalgia of a better time. A time when Americans were all “pulling on the same oar,” when our goals and objectives were clear and people responded to the call. There is yearning to again recapture that spirit.

It almost seems impossible to conceive of something like D-Day happening again. It is hard to even comprehend such a world-wide conflict and one wonders whether civilized society would have the strength and resilience to rise up and defend itself today if we faced a similar challenge.

One of our Board members, Elliott “Toby” Roosevelt III, great grandson of President Franklin Roosevelt, reflected this year on the occasion of the 75th anniversary suggesting that the nation’s feelings about D-Day relate to the idea of sacrifice:

“When compared to the sacrifices of the men who hit the beaches of France on that day… few of us have given much to merit the freedoms and protections we have enjoyed our entire lives.

¯ Freedoms and protections we love;

¯ Freedom and protections that we take for granted; and

¯ Freedoms and protections which the vast majority throughout history, have never known.

When we were born, these were simply handed to us.”

Toby Roosevelt has a point. It could be the fact that others sacrificed for the greater good to preserve the freedoms we now enjoy–that makes D-Day so important. Whatever the reason, June 6 has become one of those days when we stop and ponder what it means to be American.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.