We Should Never Forget D-Day
The Allied invasion of Europe was one of the most significant events of the 20th century.
Monday, June 6, 2011, marks the 67th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. I will be disappointed if our news media does not recognize this event. The invasion of Fortress Europe by Allied Forces on June 6, 1944, is perhaps the most significant event of the 20th century in changing the course of history.
The invasion marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi tyranny which had spread throughout Europe. In less than one year, the war in Europe would end followed shortly thereafter by the end of the war in the Pacific which would mark the end of World War II.
I trust you attended the Memorial Day parade in Dacula on Monday or attended the Memorial Day Ceremony held at the Fallen Heroes Memorial on the grounds at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center. Perhaps you, like me, noticed the sparse number of World War II veterans there among us. The veterans Tom Brokaw categorized as our greatest generation. The veterans who left home as boys and returned home as men. The men who became our coaches, teachers and mentors who molded us and guided us toward successful adulthood.
According to the Veterans Administration, our World War II veterans are dying at the rate of over 1,000 a day. You might think this is an exceptionally large number but given that 16,112,566 individuals were members of our armed forces during World War II and that the war has been over 66 years, the members of our greatest generation are an aging population. As of September 2010, 1,981,000 American veterans of World War II were still living.
Each year around June 6th, nostalgia creeps up on me. I suppose the Rose Hill Community in Columbus, Ga. where I was raised was probably not much different from Dacula or the Harbins Community. I surmise Dacula and the Harbins Community's mainstay was agriculture. Columbus was a cotton mill town straining at the seams to accommodate the growth brought on by the expansion of nearby Fort Benning.
Life was uncomplicated and simple for an almost ten-year-old boy growing up on Rose Hill in 1944. There were only three categories of people. There were the grownups, the big boys, and the little boys. Girls? I suppose they may have been called the big girls and the little girls back then. However, we little boys had yet to recognize the indelible impact girls would someday make on our hearts. I was a little boy. The big boys were the class of 1942. They were the all-state halfback, the star basketball player, the Golden Gloves boxer, the hard hitting, fast fielding shortstop, the city swimming champion, etc. We little boys looked up to them and tried to emulate them. In June 1944, there were no big boys left on Rose Hill. The big boys, which consisted mostly of the class of 1942, had gone off to fight themselves a war. In the front window of each house where a big boy had lived hung a small white banner bordered with red fringe. A blue star or stars on the white background represented a big boy serving his country.
Over the period of time from graduation day in 1942 to the end of World War II, we little boys would come face to face with one of life's realities. As we walked throughout our neighborhood we begin to notice that some of the banners which had hung in a window with a blue star had been replaced by a banner with a gold star. A big boy had made the ultimate sacrifice. While we little boys were playing war and fighting our imaginary battles, the big boys were on foreign soil facing the harsh realities of real war.
Monday, June 6, 2011, I will remember those members of our greatest generation. Especially the big boys in the class of 1942 and more especially, those who parachuted behind enemy lines or landed on the beachhead on D-Day June 6, 1944. I trust you will do likewise and that you will pass the torch of remembrance onto our younger generations. The way I see it, D-Day June 6, 1944, should forever be a day of remembrance.