Daily Archives: June 6, 2019

Remembering D-Day requires Action


Grave marker of unknown soldier, American Cemetery, Normandy, France

“Here rests in honored glory a Comrade In Arms known but to God”

June 6, 1944 is one of those days that should forever be ensconced in mankind’s collective history, similar to December 7, 1941, or more recently September 11, 2001. I have always felt it to be a day to spend in reverent memory of the sacrifices made by so many a lifetime ago.

But just about six weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a group of scouts to Normandy. We were able to walk along the beaches of Utah and Juno. We explored the craters and ruins of Point du Hoc. We walked the rows of thousands of white crosses at the American cemetery and paid our respects to the fallen. We ate dinner and participated in ceremonies of peace on the sands of “Bloody Omaha” with fellow scouts and scouters from the USA, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Germany (and I’m sure several others but those are the ones I noticed). The experience was life altering for those of us who made the trip.

Today, the first anniversary of D-Day since our visit, seems to me different now. Having been where they were. Having freely walked where they fought. Having been able to greet others with kind words and handclasps rather than bullets. Being able to leave, unlike so many that did not.

Books, classes, websites, movies…these can explain to us the timelines, the strategy, the methods, the results. But being there, standing on that ground, brings a new perspective that is hard to adequately explain. And that was 75 years after the fact. I can only imagine how poignant that place is for those who were there, those few who still remain.

There are so few left who witnessed the events of June 6, 1944 in person. At each five year interval, even fewer are able to attend ceremonies on the land they walked all those years ago. I’m sure that while that much of the topography is the same, it looks far different today than it did back then. Estimates say this may be the last major anniversary where vets will attend.  It falls upon us, then,  to continue to remember what happened on that day, and what it meant for us as a country, a people, a world.

To borrow the words of President Lincoln from his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” 

While those words were spoken in the midst of our American Civil War more than 80 years before the events of June 6, 1944, they are uncannily, hauntingly applicable today, just as they were then, just as they were in 1944.  We must not just remember, but we must act.  To continually strive to ensure that those underlying causes of the conflict can never again be allowed to occur. To endeavor for understanding and friendship among all peoples, rather than distrust and conflict. To maintain constant vigilance to ensure that the evils and horrors of that conflict are not revisited upon any of us.  To speak up when evil is perpetrated on those around us, even if we are not affected.  To do our duty to God and our country, and to help other people at all times.  To be not just helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind to others, but also brave in standing up for the least among us.  To quote Mr. E. Urner Goodman, one of the founders of the Order of the Arrow, “He who Serves his fellows is, of all his fellows, greatest.”  Or maybe more succinctly, as our OA Obligation tells us, we all must “be unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others.”

We must.  If not us, then who?

Letter from Eisenhower to the members of the Allied Expeditionary Force - June 6, 1944

Eisenhower’s letter to the Allied Expeditionary Force

Here’s a link to the Google Photo Album from our trip.

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