Again, we remember the “day of days”

This year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We often call it “Operation Overlord“, but technically that was the name of the overall battle plan for the invasion of Normandy. The D-Day landings themselves are more correctly referred to as “Operation Neptune“. I doubt the men who parachuted in the night of June 5/6 or the men who charged ashore from landing boats really cared much for the distinction. They had a job to do, and do it they did. By the end of the day the Allies were in France and were going nowhere but east, toward Nazi Germany.

Reading about the commemorative events taking place both in the UK and France (as wishing I could be there), I’m struck at the age of the men who were there on that day. All in their mid- to late 90s.  Old, stooped and needing assistance to move around, the same will that saw them through D-Day carries them still.

As I’ve said before, I was raised by a veteran of WWII. Dad wasn’t there for D-Day, but he was there for the end of the Battle of the Bulge and for the crossing of the Rhine at Remagen. He was in Co. B, 27th Armored Infantry Regiment, 9th Armored Division. His company was the second across the bridge, A Company being the first.

Dad, like so many of the men who saved Europe from itself, is gone over 8 years now. So are all of his friends from the war as far as I know. Those we see in Normandy now are the rear guard, fighting their final battle against mortality.

Having been raised by a man and men who fought in the war, having known people who lost sons in that war, I find it extraordinarily difficult to accept a world without those men in it. However, in a decade, perhaps a bit more, that will be where I find myself.

We are less without these men walking among us. We should strive to be worthy of their sacrifices, made when they were young, with entire lives ahead of them. Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice, and remain young to this day.

We live in a time when war is an unknown to 99% of our population. That’s probably a Bad Thing, since those who know war firsthand seem least likely to send men into that particular hell without a damn good reason. I suspect that soon, the lessons of the past will again be forgotten and we will find ourselves consigning our sons, and this time our daughters, into the maw of the beast. Conflict seems to be hardwired into us as a species, and we’ve never been one to learn from history.

For now, however, remember these brave men. Gaze upon these pictures at the Denver Post, and see what they saw. And pray that our children never have to see it outside pictures.

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