“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely . . .
I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
Today we plant our feet on the anniversary of the Great Crusade. That carefully crafted message from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, distributed to the more than 160,000 Allied forces on June 5, 1944, will go down as some of the most powerful words of Military History and yet…. the deeds, performed on June 6th, that followed those words far eclipsed their meaning. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day , but their supreme sacrifice allowed the others to begin the slow difficult march across Hitler’s Europe to re-capture freedom.
Can YOU imagine getting that letter? I’ve read about this day. I’ve been to incredible lectures by Military Historians to learn more. I’ve stood on those shores, that peacefully belie the bloodbath that once took place there. I’ve walked the little villages where paratroopers landed that night as strangers in a strange land to fulfill their destiny. I’ve seen the countryside they came to liberate. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around it all, and I ……well, I just can’t. I compare the innocence of my youth and my male peers with theirs, so violently ripped from them on the precipice of their hopeful futures. I imagine the dreams they must have treasured …before the world fell apart. I grieve for those that never even got the chance to move past that day. I mourn for others that were forever changed because of it. I honestly cannot fathom the sacrifices they made and the bravery they exhibited in the face of horror and fear. If I even try to step into those HUGE shoes and walk around for even a moment, it is like a toddler clumping around in his Daddy’s boots. I am lost in them.
General Eisenhower also drafted another letter for that fateful day, just in case. In the event that the mission was to fail on June 6th, he wrote: “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
I wonder…just like the question in Saving Private Ryan…..have I earned it? Have WE earned it? Are we living the lives they died to save? Are we making our own individual strides toward preserving freedom? Are we stepping up to causes bigger than ourselves putting our dreams into second place? Are we taking responsibility for our failures? With a grateful heart, I realize the magnanimity of my debt.
It is so very important for us to remember this day…remember these soldiers…remember the cost and remember who they did it for…lest we forget.