Sixty-four years ago, Americans woke up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt telling them that the invasion of France had begun and offering a prayer that this "mighty endeavor" would ultimately prevail.
Sixty-four years ago, American, British and Canadian forces began the assault on the beaches of Normandy that would ultimately end with the destruction of the great and terrible National Socialist war machine. It was the largest amphibious invasion ever. Over 130,000 men from the United States, Great Britain and Canada fought their way on to five beaches in Normandy now forever known by their code names of Utah, Gold, Omaha, Juno and Sword. On the other side of the German defensive positions, some 13,000 paratroopers dropped from the sky to attack from behind the lines. The assault upon Fortress Europe had begun.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a young soldier. You are six months from your enlistment and maybe 18 or 19-years-old and now you are on flat-bottomed Higgins boat headed for Omaha Beach. You probably don't know it's code name, and Omaha is some city in the Midwest as far you know. All you are really concerned with is what is going to happen when the front of that landing craft opens up when you get close to the beach. Already, artillery rounds are starting to drop around you and the burp of machine guns is starting to be heard.
The boat slows and begins to lower the front ramp. It's time. Your gut clenches in the kind of fear that only those who are facing imminent death will ever know. You crouch as low as the crowded boat will let you as the ramp lowers and the guns are trained on your boat. You hear your sergeant yell out to your squad to hit the beach. Your months of training and drill have all come down to this moment. You move because you are trained and because everyone around you is moving as well.
The door is now open and water is surging onto the ramp as you rush forward with your unit. Your buddy next to you, the one that you have trained with, drank with, cursed with, and prayed with, suddenly lurches back and you are spattered with a warm liquid that contrasts with the cold spray of the seawater. It's his blood from a bullet that tore through his neck. As he drops beside you, you keep going. There is no time to mourn and there isn't anything you can do for him anyway. You only hope and pray that there isn't a bullet out there with your name on it . Somehow, you push down your fear and continue forward, one step at a time. You keep going as bodies and body parts float next you and bullets and artillery whiz by you. Finally you are on the beach and you drop down and clutch the sand like you will fall off at any second, but only for a brief second. Your sergeant runs by and kicks you and tells you to keep moving. You pick up your rifle and start moving, inch by excruciating inch.
Eventually, your unit reaches their objective and the battle, for now, is over. You don't dare think about the last 48 hours, because if you do, you'll lose your nerve. Half of the guys you trained with are either dead or wounded. Tomorrow is a different day and the battle will begin again as you are given a new objective.
Sixty-four years later, we honor the men of D-Day. We honor them for their courage and for their success because of their courage. Truly, we are the home of the free BECAUSE of the brave.
Let us never forget their courage and their accomplishments on this day. Let us never forget the ones who paid the ultimate price for freedom.