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Today is the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day), and it brings so many things to my mind - G.I. Joe, Rosie the Riveter, and Kilroy Was Here, just to name a few. But D-Day was much more than that. It was the largest seaborne invasion in the history of man, and the major turning point in a battle to begin an end to the atrocities against the Jewish people, defeat Nazism, and restore freedom. But the battle came at a cost; thousands sacrificed their lives on that day so that you and I, along with millions of people throughout Europe and the world, can live on in peace and freedom.
It took a special kind of courage to run up that beach, completely exposed to a hailstorm of fire from the cliffs above; a courage rooted in the grit that came from surviving a Great Depression and fed by the work ethic and patriotism that comes from understanding the rarity of the opportunities American freedom provides. This “Greatest Generation” was like no other generation before or since, and I don’t believe it is a coincidence that they were the generation chosen to endure this conflict. The Bible states in Psalm 22:28 that, “dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (NIV). I have no doubt that it is His dominion on display in the way he built up a generation with the fortitude to endure the hardships of global warfare.
This generation – characterized by personal responsibility, humility, work ethic, prudent saving, and faithful commitment – would not hesitate to rally and die if necessary, for their ideals, principles, beliefs, and country. I knew a man named John, a first-generation American born to Russian immigrants, whose father forbade anyone in the family from speaking Russian. “We are Americans” was what the patriarch continually reminded his family as they left the old country behind and embraced America. John’s father also had a strong work ethic that he instilled in him, so when the United States entered World War II, John did not hesitate to join up. He was only 17 years old, and tested out of Trinity High School to enlist. As the only son to carry on the family name, he was not required to join the service, but his only concern was to serve! He spent the next several years fighting in the Philippines with the Navy Seabees. This man, John Rizak, was my father-in-law, and passed away just this year at age 91. He is only one example of the multitude of men and women who cast aside everything to be a part of something bigger than themselves – The Greatest Generation, many of whom submitted themselves to dive onto the blood-ridden beaches of Normandy in a fight to pry France free from the clutches of Nazi oppression, and in doing so shift the winds of war in the Allies’ favor.
I clearly see the reflection of Christ’s sacrifice in the actions of the men who gave everything that day.
Jesus became man with the mission of liberating mankind from sin by His death on a cross. Jesus will always be the ultimate sacrificial servant, He laid down His life to redeem us from our sin. For many soldiers on D-Day, their sacrifice reminds us of Jesus’ command in John 15:12-13, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (KJV).
For all those men and women who served during World War II and ultimately the Normandy Invasion, never let us forget the sacrifices they made, obstacles they overcame and the commitment to freedom that they have allowed us to enjoy. As I close, I am reminded of a poem that I read from an anonymous soldier while serving in the Army Chaplaincy. The poem, titled “God and the Soldier,” goes like this:
God and the soldier
we alike adore
In times of danger;
The danger past
and conflict righted,
God is forgotten,
The soldier slighted.
Remembering the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, there are very few of those who served remaining within our midst. As you reflect, please take time out to remember our freedom, thank those you know who have served, and thank the God we rely on for our help and strength.
To God Be the Glory! Thanks to all who served! Salute!
Major James Kurt DeMarino- US Army Retired