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Our View: Those who fought on D-Day deserve our gratitude

Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 6, 2014 8:32 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file photo)
FILE - In this June 6, 2014 file photo, allied troops crouch behind the bulwarks of a landing craft as it nears Omaha Beach during a landing in Normandy, France. The D-Day invasion broke through Adolf Hitlerís western defenses and led to the liberation of France from Nazi occupation just as the Soviet Army was making advances in the east, turning the tide of the war in the Alliesí favor. Allied troops landed on the Normandy coast of France in tremendous strength by cloudy daylight today and stormed several miles inland with tanks and infantry in the grand assault which Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called a crusade in which ìwe will accept nothing less than full victory.î(AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, File)

Seventy years ago, men sat in boats, or planes, and headed toward a beach in Normandy.

What courage it must have taken that day for those men. They knew what likely awaited them – and they moved forward anyway, because they knew no action would result in something far worse for the world, and sacrifice was required to achieve the desired result.

June 6, 1944, is known as D-Day. It’s the day thousands of Allied Forces members stormed into Europe with the aim of wresting control away from Adolf Hitler and the Axis powers. Imagine what the world might be like if they didn’t have the courage to at least try.

The war didn’t end that day – it took until 1945 for that. But the foothold those brave men gained that day led to the eventual surrender of Axis powers.

For the first time in a long time during World War II, the day was a beacon of hope.

And the cost for that hope, like in all wars, was great.

D-Day included more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 service men, according to the website for The National D-Day Memorial.

“After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs,” the history portion of that website reads. “Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying 80 pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell.”

When it was over, there were nearly 10,000 Allied Forces casualties, with more than 4,000 confirmed dead, according to the D-Day Memorial website.

“Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached.”

These people were part of the Greatest Generation, a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw in a book of the same name. He wrote that this group of people was “the greatest generation any society has ever produced” and argued they fought because it was “the right thing to do.”

In a world where we get frustrated by a slow Internet connection, and where putting the needs of others before our own isn’t prized, their enduring legacy is a lesson we all could be reminded of.

Many of those who were part of D-Day, or World War II in general, are no longer with us. But despite their passing, what they did, what they put on the line and gave up, cannot be forgotten. They deserve our gratitude.

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