Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Older senior citizens, military personnel or history aficionados easily remember the day. Too many others seem unfamiliar with this date or its significance. Yet, D-Day continues to have vital messages for our nation and the world.
The prime message is that to protect the freedoms that we Americans often take for granted, over 160,000 American, Canadian and British young men stormed the dangerous and hostile beaches and cliffs of Normandy, France, to make the assault needed to finally crush Hitler's Nazis. It was the beginning of the end of the war. Less than a year after D-Day, World War II ended in Europe.
Thousands of young men were killed and wounded on D-Day, and more suffered permanent injuries. We Americans tend to have short memories for things that don't directly involve us, but we should be eternally grateful to those who were part of what was dubbed "Operation Overlord," led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Close to a decade later, Eisenhower, a career military man, became president. It was reassuring to know that someone who understood the horrors and complexities of war was sitting in the White House. Many of us wish that were true today.
Another D-Day message is that when times get tough, nations needs allies. That hasn't changed; rarely are single countries able to control others except by domination. During WWII, Germany and Japan didn't need any real allies, as they simply conquered and destroyed those who wouldn't do as they wanted. In the end, the single countries could not outdo those allied with each other.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) arose as an obvious need to make sure smaller countries who valued real freedoms and democracy could have support when needed. Our president seems to have trouble with that concept; it may come back to haunt us.
Five years ago, Maury and I fulfilled a bucket-list trip to visit the beaches of Normandy and pay our respects to the valiant young men who lost their lives there. The five beaches, code-named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah, are now quiet and often full of tourists. We felt it strange and incongruous to find the Omaha Beach Golf Club on these revered grounds. However, a young man explained that many believe that those who gave their lives would be pleased to know that now this is an area of peace and enjoyment for all people.
On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy area will be swarming with international leaders and politicians, but with few of the real stars from three quarters of a century ago. Due to advanced age and deaths of soldiers who were part of D-Day, fewer than three dozen men can make the journey. For obvious reasons, future memorials on this date will be different.
Since the end of World War II, our nation has been involved in major wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. We seem to be testing the waters with Iran. We still have difficulty learning which enemies, conflicts and nations truly require our military intervention as Nazi Germany did.
The American cemetery at the Normandy beaches, with its many long rows of white marble crosses and stars of David, where so many of our young people were laid to rest, is a vivid reminder of the losses that war brings. D-Day reminds us that at times our nation must fight and make sacrifices, but in doing so, we must be sure that our human losses are absolutely necessary.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is email@example.com.