Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Those beaches were the sites of the greatest invasion in the history of the world. The 160,000 heroes who landed on June 6, 1944, and the 195,000 others on ships and 24,000 in the air turned the tide of the war.
By the end of that day the German high command knew that the war would be lost. On that day the Third Reich began to implode. On that day the world saw an example of what lengths people will go to preserve freedom for themselves and for millions of others. On that day those heroes saved the world.
This coming Wednesday will mark the 68th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. It is known as D-Day which was a designation that had no specific meaning. The name now evokes tears of sorrow for those lost, awe and wonder at what was accomplished, and gratitude from freedom loving people around the globe.
We all have heard the recounting of the stories of the planning of the invasion along with the good fortune of the weather working in the favor of the Allied Forces.
We know of the incredible pressure that must have been on the shoulders of Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander, as the decision was his to make. His alone and his to answer for if the invasion went awry.
Many never made it ashore having been killed by the Nazis in the bunkers before they made it off the landing craft or out of the water. Some lost their lives in the sand having never made it to the cliffs. Others died while taking the bunkers to make the beaches safe for others to land.
Paratroopers died while floating down toward their targets and some died while scurrying to get into position.
Dutch Schultz never fired his gun that day having always arrived at the scene a little too late. Disney song writer Robert Sherman was injured that day and walked with a limp the rest of his days until his death this year. My school counselor, Mr. Bodlander, an Austrian by birth, earned the Silver Star for his bravery that day on our behalf.
The battle had been in the planning stages for months but once Ike gave the order to proceed the ships, planes, and men were in a rendezvous with destiny and at 6:30 a.m. on that fateful day the liberation of France and the European continent commenced.
Eisenhower always praised the troops for their skills and sacrifices. He knew that it was the soldier who paid the price of conflict. It was the veteran who felt the sting of the bullets. It was the veteran who watched his buddy die. It was the veteran who felt his life slip away as the blood left his body and drained into the sands of France. It was the veteran who fought for his little part of the 50 miles of the invasion site. It was the veteran who went into that battle knowing it might well be his final day of life.
10,000 men did not live to see the sunset that evening. Their blood spilled into the sea and into the soil. Their DNA, forever a part of the sea and turf of Normandy, makes that part of our planet sacred.
Last week we celebrated Memorial Day to honor the war injured and the war dead. This Wednesday we honor the D-Day wounded, dead, and survivors for their unselfish act. The Bible offers this example of the ultimate sacrifice in John 15:13 which states, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
There have been 24,837 days since D-Day. Those who survived the battle and are still alive are in their late eighties or nineties. A couple may even be past one hundred years of age. I can't imagine that one day hasn't passed that they haven't thought back to the horrors of that event.
We need to tell them thanks. We need to pray for those who sacrificed. We need to impart to the children the story of real heroes who saved the world from Hitler and his Third Reich.
The American veteran at D-Day 68 years ago paid the price for us. I hope you take advantage of their sacrifice and vote in Tuesday's election. We owe them that.
We owe them a great deal. So much more.