This Memorial Day message marks my thirteenth consecutive one – and it's no coincidence that the Free State Foundation is now in its thirteenth year. I suppose that's another way of saying, as I said last year, that this tradition continues to exert its pull on me as I ponder the true meaning of Memorial Day.
In little more than a week – on June 6 – America will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the day when some 156,000 American, British, and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion, one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history, was the beginning of the end of World War II. In April 1945, Germany was defeated and the war in Europe was over.
Here is Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David Eisenhower's message upon the commencement of the invasion:
"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 hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
About 2500 Americans died in the invasion on June 6 alone.
During World War II, the United States lost over 400,000 soldiers, and, of course, many thousands more men and women suffered grievous injuries.
We shouldn't need "special" anniversaries to recall – and to embed deep in our common memory – all those American soldiers who have given their lives defending freedom and liberty here at home and abroad.
In his Farewell Address, speaking of D-Day, Ronald Reagan said this: "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of that - of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
So, on this Memorial Day of this 75th anniversary of D-Day, all Americans, regardless of race, creed, sex, or political affiliation, should pause to remember those who paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom to speak freely and pray – or not – as we wish.
And, on this Memorial Day, if we do remember, perhaps we will be more likely to appreciate, even embrace, those ideals that we share in common as Americans and that should bind us together. And be less likely to cast stones on the day after.
As Cicero put it over two thousand years ago: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
I wish you and your family the best for a safe, happy, and meaningful Memorial Day!