On 6 June 1944 Americans stormed French beaches in the Battle of Normandy under commander Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was the turning point for World War II, and was decisive for defeating Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.
Americans wounded after storming Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944
Yet last year, on my neighborhood street, only one flag other than the one on our house flew in memory of these brave Americans, some of whom gave their lives so that Western Europe, and the West in general, could remain free.
Last year, on television, commemorative profiles of the few veterans remaining alive were overwhelmed by the distressing reports that we had just traded five of the most dangerous terrorists in our own war, the war on terror, in exchange for a soldier who might have deserted, might have collaborated with the enemy. The White House and journalists in general were okay with “not being sure.” Yet the soldiers who actually served with Bowe Bergdahl seem 100% sure that he left his station without permission. We know for sure six soldiers died looking for him. Bergdahl’s parents got a big ceremony in the White House rose garden. The soldiers who died looking for him got nothing.
This seemed unjust to me.
I have been to Utah beach. I have been to Omaha beach. I went with a history professor when I was in college. He made sure we fully understood the sacrifices made that day for our freedom. You would have to be a pretty cold customer not to cry while walking on those shores.
Last year, on 6 June, a million rose petals were released by the French in thanks to Americans for all that was done for France that June of 1944. Yet we thank our current veterans with a Veterans Administration that handles their health care in the most shameful and inefficient way, betraying an ingratitude for their service that would be hard to match. Unless you think of the soldiers fighting against terrorism who have been insulted by their own country releasing the very enemy from whom they are trying to protect us.
My Dad is a veteran. I have taught veterans. I teach war literature because too many sacrifices by too many American soldiers are being minimized or completely forgotten.
As those rose petals fell to the ground around the Statue of Liberty, I was glad that the French could remember the true fallen, the true soldiers, both past and present. Those who stormed beaches so we could be free. I hope this year we can continue to honor those men as the French did last year. Dwight D. Eisenhower would later become President, and there is something to be said for having experience serving your country before you have the title “Commander-in-Chief.” It is not to be taken lightly. The losses sustained and the responsibilities required are just too heavy, and so very real.