It was my great privilege to visit Omaha Beach with a group from the Young America’s Foundation(1), on the 66th anniversary of D-Day.
Standing on the cliff at Pointe du Hoc with shell holes, gun emplacements and pill boxes behind me, I could look over the precipice and marvel at how 225 Rangers scratched their way up the 180-foot cliff with grappling hooks and ropes while being shot at from above – and how, with incredible bravery, they achieved their objective.
On Omaha Beach, I walked to the water’s edge and looked back at the seawall that was several hundred feet from where I stood.
To the right of the seawall was a pill box that had an open view of the beach and could rake the beach with machine gun fire.
I stood at the water’s edge shortly after low tide, which is when the Americans landed at Omaha Beach. It took incredible bravery for men with packs weighing 130 pounds to run across those several hundred feet of beach to reach the partial cover afforded by the seawall.
Many did not survive and they are buried at the American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer. At first sight of the perfectly aligned rows of marble crosses gazing over Omaha Beach, you are caught up short and take an extra breath to retain your composure.
It is humbling to walk among those graves.
We live our lives in freedom because of the gift these men gave to us.
Today, we have equally brave men and women fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan and standing guard at other locations, such as Korea, and on our ships around the world.
Now, on this weekend in June, 72 years after D-Day, it is appropriate to reflect on the words of Ronald Reagan:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day, we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
D-Day and World War II are slipping into the mist of history.
Few alive today have a firsthand experience of World War II.
Soon, D-Day will be a date-tagged name, like Belleau Wood, Gettysburg, and Valley Forge.
Inexorably, D-Day and World War II will become irrelevant in the daily lives of each new generation.
Hopefully, a message will transcend the murky mist of history, a message of freedom and why it must be protected and nurtured.
- The Young America’s Foundation has purchased Reagan Ranch and is maintaining it for future generations.
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