Storming the Beaches for Freedom

June 6th was the 77th anniversary of the storming of Normandy, the Allied offensive on the north shore of France, taking the war to the Nazis on the continent, leading ultimately to their defeat. What struck me in a recent article was an excerpt from General Eisenhower’s exhortatory Order of the Day:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade . . . . The hopes 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] I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! . . . [L]et us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

By the time the beaches were taken, 4,415 Americans were killed while another 5,600 were either wounded or missing. All to take one coast in one phase of the war, in which, overall, upwards of 40 million died, and who knows how many wounded, scarred, bereft.

The phrase that jumped out at me in Ike’s address was the ‘liberty-loving people’, which, it seems, as a people, too many of us are so no longer. Freedom is hard won, hard fought, and hard to live out. Like the men who had to clamber out of their amphibious vehicles and face heavy machine-gun fire in the swell of the sea, staying at home, curled up on a sofa, and ‘hoping for the best’ seems like a much better idea.

Except it’s not life. For to live, to say nothing of living well and fully, one must be willing to risk all and face death. We are in proximate danger of giving away everything for which those men gave everything, as we submit supinely to an increasingly authoritarian regime which has far more power over us than the Nazis could dream of – however they might use it – and ‘hoping for the best’. We give away our freedom by inches, until there’s not much left.

Liberty-loving people everywhere – safeguard that freedom for which your ancestors fought and died. We can do no less.