Remembering Why the Greatest Generation was Great

On June 6, 1944, we began an assault on one of the most evil regimes the world has ever known.

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Young men, many who lied about their age to enlist, faced death and destruction against a battle hardened enemy.

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They crossed an ocean and launched from the safety of their ships aboard rickety landing craft, and steamed toward the sounds of gunfire.

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They charged a heavily fortified and guarded beach, braving heavy machine gun fire and artillery, charging forward even as their brothers died around them.

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And despite all of this chaos, death, and destruction, they pressed on. They did so not only because it was their duty, but because they knew it was right, and if they didn’t win, no one else could.

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And win they did. Losses were heavy, heavier on our side than our enemy’s, but we none the less won the day.

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Through their effort and sacrifice, we were able to establish a beachhead, where we could finally end the tyranny of the Third Reich.

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These men would later go on to free France, and Belgium, and Germany, and the rest of Europe. And Europe was grateful.

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I had the great fortune of living next to a veteran of D-Day when I was younger. After I enlisted in the Marines and returned home just after 9/11, he invited me over and told me his story. He told me of the landing, and the abject fear that he had as he ran toward machine gun positions through a beach red with blood. After the assault, as part of an antiaircraft crew, he once had to run through a minefield to resupply the guns multiple times, praying to God that he wouldn’t hit one. Not because he feared death, but because he feared the guns would run dry, and his fellow soldiers would die as a result. The most poignant thing told me was that he and those he served with didn’t volunteer for fame or glory, nor medals or accolades. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

He died a few years later. Afterward, his wife told me that other than those he served with, I was the only one he ever told his full story to. I don’t think I will ever be more honored than I was by that man.

On this day, we remember that band of brothers and all that they were. But  remember, the Greatest Generation was not named so because of what they did. They were named so because of why they did it. Because it was the right thing to do.

 

 

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