‘That Is Where I Lost a Lot of My Friends’: The 79th Anniversary of D-Day
Spending seven years of my childhood in Europe came with many blessings — including easy access to nearly any historical European landmark. One memory I will never forget occurred in Normandy, France, on the very grounds where thousands of Americans and Allied forces sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom. This day, June 6, 1944, is known as D-Day. Today we commemorate its 79th anniversary.
On the 70th anniversary, my family and I went to the countryside of France. As we journeyed to the shores of Omaha Beach, I recall many of the French homes we passed flying American flags. Looking back, it is truly remarkable how much respect and honor were portrayed in that simple gesture.
We arrived at the beach and walked along the shore. It was a beautiful sunny day. The waves were crashing, and the seagulls were yapping. I had always loved the beach, but that trip to the golden sand was unlike any other. Rather than building sandcastles or boogie boarding on the water, all I wanted to do was reflect on the events that occurred 70 years prior, when blood stained the ground and tainted the water. Smoke and burnt flesh filled the air. The grounds on which I walked was the place thousands of men, young and old, last saw the light of day — the last time breath escaped their lips. It was the day countless women became widows, and children became fatherless. A place of so much pain and loss, and I was standing where it happened.
We made our way to the hills behind the beach and stepped onto a stone path. I could sense determination in my father’s walk. He was no longer simply taking it all in, he was leading us somewhere in particular. Not too far down the path, my father stopped us. “This is where I was standing in 1984, the 40th anniversary of D-Day,” he said. He told us how he was here as a Black Hawk crew chief medivac, assigned to provide any medical evacuation needed during the D-Day memorial event. My father told us about the thousands of people who were there, including presidents and leaders of the U.S., England, and France.
“But there was one man who stood out to me,” my father continued. He gestured to his side. “Right here was a man standing with his wife. I was only a couple of feet away from them, and we stood in silence. After several moments, the elderly man, as tears ran down his face, pointed down at the beach and said, ‘That is where I lost a lot of my friends.’ I’ll never forget that, and I wanted you all to hear it, too.”
The Normandy American Cemetery is where we went next. At the time, that was the largest cemetery I had ever visited. I remember noticing how the tombstones seemed never-ending — and these were only the graves of the American soldiers. Several years later, I was able to visit the Arlington National Cemetery for the first time, a much larger cemetery that has been accumulating graves since 1864. But this cemetery in France, where thousands of soldiers have been laid to rest, was the result of mere weeks.
Between the years 2009 and 2016, I had seen the Roman Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Arc de Triomphe, Sagrada Familia, and several other historic attractions — all truly remarkable and fascinating. But the time we spent in France, engulfed in the history of D-Day, was beyond words. This was not just a check-the-box sort of trip. This was a realization of what it actually means to be free.
As we remember D-Day on its 79th anniversary, let the honor and respect we show toward these fallen men be timeless. May we walk forward in gratitude for those who serve and have served on behalf of faith, family, and freedom — even to the extent of laying down their lives.
We are living at a point in history where a corrupt worldview is trying to force the narrative that America is only built on oppression and hatred. But this could not be any further separated from reality. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. But, as the saying goes, freedom is not free. It, too, comes with a price which, in many cases, is the invaluable price of human life.
When you consider America, consider how the privileges we enjoy — freedom of speech and religion, as well as the right to vote, bear arms, and have a fair trial — are only possible because of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the cause. America is the land of the free for us, because it has been paid for with the blood of selfless soldiers.
As we remember D-Day, also remember the truth of what America is, and the pledge under which these lives were sacrificed: One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This is what they fought for. This is why they died. May we never take that for granted.