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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Remembering D-Day

Today, the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the beaches of France, please take a moment to remember the soldiers and sailors from the United States, Great Britain and Canada who fought a fierce battle for freedom on Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. Other countries taking part in the battle were Australia, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

Despite a series of failures and missteps by the Allies, these brave men fought against the odds and the big guns of the Germans, and by the end of the day they had gained two footholds on the coast of France. The defeat on D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Remnants of one of two temporary harbors built to support the D-Day invasion can still be seen off Omaha Beach.

I stood on Omaha Beach and visited the American military cemetery on the bluffs above the beach just three weeks ago. In my small group were three other Americans and an Australian, plus our French guide. No words can describe the emotions we experienced as we reflected on the horrors and death of that day. Some 2,499 Americans are confirmed to have died that day, along with 1,914 from other Allied nations. Many more were killed in fighting after June 6.

I caught a glimpse of Utah Beach, where my father, just 19 years old, served as a gunner's mate second class on the USS Corry, the lead destroyer of the Normandy invasion task force. The Corry was sunk and 24 of his crewmates were killed. After more than two hours in the cold (52 F) waters of the Atlantic, he was picked up by a British warship and went on to serve in the Pacific. 

I have always been aware that June 6, 1944 was D-Day, but I never truly grasped the significance and sacrifice of that day until I visited the beach in person.
My father didn't talk much about his wartime experience, but I wish I had tried to get him to talk about it. He is gone now, so I won't get to hear his account of the battle.

I would love to return to the beaches of Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the history-changing battles that took place there. I can think of no more fitting way of honoring those who sacrificed so much.