D-Day: June 6, 1944. Seventy years ago today began the largest amphibious landing of an armed force in world history. As Allied troops hit the beaches at Normandy in the wee hours of the morning, at points code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the liberation of Europe was begun. The high point of the Greatest Generation was underway.
The Greatest Generation stands now at its wane. Its members are virtually all in their 80s now. The celebrations of their accomplishments are becoming fewer, smaller, and less intense. Even with improvements in medicine and diet, only a mere handful will still be around in fifteen or twenty years. Many if not most of their numbers are gone already.
It is no small compliment to call them the greatest. Has their been any other challenge successfully met by anyone else in any other time? True, we are dealing in immeasurables when we say such things. Yet it's still pretty clear that nothing anywhere close to the magnitude of World War II has occurred in all of human history. Might a greater threat and a greater harm possibly rise? Yes, of course. But to date this is it.
What can we learn from these people? We can learn perseverance, we can learn faith; we can learn to believe that, when a serious threat to home and hearth nears, humanity can rise to meet and defeat it. We can learn the humility which so many of the Greatest have displayed when speaking of their efforts in later years. We can learn that all of history teaches us to respect and remember what those who have gone before us have done for us. We can remember that our lives are here today only because of what they did with their lives, and against terrible odds under unspeakable conditions.
We can learn to respect heroism. We can learn to revere the heroes.