D-Day. That singular statement tells a great deal. The sentiments it dredges up, the tears it evokes, the memories it harbors are all encapsulated in those four letters. Those involved will be honored tomorrow on the 6th which will be the 70th anniversary of that historic event. Those involved who are still alive are now in their 80s or 90s, but 1,000 years from now, their actions that eventually allowed the Allied Forces to defeat Hitler and his ilk will still be recalled and admired.
It was and will remain the greatest military invasion in the history of the world. Ten thousand men who went into the battle died that day to preserve freedom for the rest of us. Ten thousand families losing a son, brother, father, uncle or grandfather. Ten thousand. There are reports that the sea was red with the spilled blood. Try to imagine the carnage required to turn the oceans on those beaches red.
I can't imagine the horror that filled their hearts and minds as they headed toward their targets. Whether it was a beach or a drop zone, the soldiers involved knew the risks. They faced their fears and they served their country.
The rangers who had been told there was a climb in your future faced the cliffs at Point du Hoc and, as the Nazi's rained bullets and other devices intended to kill, our brave troops climbed and climbed until they took that valuable piece of real estate from the enemy.
The men who stood in the landing craft heading toward the beaches of Normandy knew the enemy was well-supplied in concrete bunkers on the hills above the beaches. For many, the end of their life came as soon as the gate dropped down into the surf and a Nazi bullet ripped through their body.
Still others drowned in the water with wounds that made it impossible for them to wade or swim to shallow water or onto the beach. Many made it to the dry sand only to feel the bullet and experience the last few seconds or minutes of life as their blood drained into the white sand.
"Medic. Medic. Medic. Mom. Help me. Please help me. Oh God." Those words would have been shouted out by the men of D-Day.
Those veterans already knew the horrors of war. They had served in other combat situations and they knew from the training for the invasion, known as Operation Overlord, it was going to be bloody. The leaders from Eisenhower down to the lowliest private in the Army knew this was going to turn the tide of the war.
Hitler's generals knew it, as well. They knew if the Allied Forces got a foothold, the Third Reich's days were numbered. Eisenhower was able to pull it off with a great deal of military skill and planning, along with the great training and devotion to the cause from all involved, and with the luck of good weather. Imagine being General Eisenhower on June 5, 1944 and realizing that you and you alone make the call. If you're right and all goes well, you are proclaimed a hero and life is good. If you are wrong; your nation might be defeated, Hitler controls Europe and the world, and you are tried as a war criminal and face execution.
The grunt who rides in the landing craft doesn't think about being a hero; he thinks of making it through the fray. He knows his role in the operation and he carries out his duties for his buddies, his unit and his nation.
This past Tuesday we had the opportunity to exercise our cherished right to vote. As I cast my ballot in Bass Lake, I was able to do so as a free citizen of the United States because of the American veteran. On Tuesday I thought of the boy's of D-Day and their sacrifice so that 25,565 days after their actions, we could still have free elections. The cost of that election isn't measurable in what candidates spent in advertising, but in the loss of life so great that the sea turned red.
From time-to-time, people look back on their lives and wonder if they really made a difference in people's lives or in the world. The heroes of D-Day never have to ask themselves that question.
May they be blessed by God.