One of the bravest moments in American history is D-Day. June 6, 1944, is one of those moments in time in which bravery and fortitude of our troops humble us civilians and make us eternally grateful for the sacrifices made during World War II.
One after another, men poured from the ships relentlessly, never faltering as those in front of them collapsed from enemy fire. I still am in awe of the fearlessness and grit our veterans show as they have gone to war faithfully and repeatedly since those days on Normandy Beach.
The history of our country makes me proud and it makes me appreciate my family that has lived through a lot of this history. My Aunt Anita is now 86 and can recall moments in time that many can only read about.
Anita McCalister was 13 and living in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the time World War II started. She remembers when the United States joined to help England thwart Hitler. “I can remember when the U.S. announced they were going to help us fight Hitler. It was a huge relief. Everyone was so happy. When Churchill was appointed, he sure was a huge morale booster to us all. He got our blood going,” she said with a smile.
She and my father saw continual bombings when the Luftwaffe tried to get the Belfast shipyards and the port. She said, “Thankfully it was so well blacked out and there was so much smoke in the sky they couldn’t see it at first. They tried once and failed. They sent lots of bombs and took out the top of their long street they lived on. So they had to leave Belfast and stay with family in Dromore. South Ireland had made an agreement with Germany that if they got the shipyard, Germany would give them Northern Ireland, too. As dubious as that agreement was, fortunately Germany lost.”
She said, "I can remember when we started getting shipments of food in from the States. We were under such severe rationing. Once you spent all of the food vouchers on the booklet you were assigned, you couldn’t buy any more food. Butter was so hard to get a hold of. Sweets (candies) were impossible to get a hold of. When those cartons of food started coming in, it helped a lot."
Since World War II, Americans haven’t had to live with any rationing or limits on their lifestyle due to wartime efforts. There is no nationalistic effort to help our economics to support our military.
I think people forget our military is still being sent to Afghanistan and to places in Africa that are full of danger. I have often wondered if we had some sort of national effort going on to show support for our troops and help generate economics, would our service members be less forgotten by the masses of Americans?
That opening scene in the movie, Saving Private Ryan portrays a scene of the men arriving on Normandy Beach. I really can’t imagine being behind other boats, watching everyone die and yet still moving forward toward the shore. There was so much loss. There aren’t precise figures on the total amount of casualties. It is estimated more than 4,410 allied troops were killed, including U.S. military in the first day of D-Day.
Normandy Beach was a huge area for transport and if Germany was thwarted on moving weapons and supplies and soldiers, this would help them from conquering the rest of Europe. Thanks to the amazing bravery of those who served by air or by sea, Hitler was defeated.
When I have talked to World War II veterans about their experiences in Europe, I can’t help but notice how they undermine what courage they portrayed about their duty and their roles in which they served our great nation. “I just did my job. We all just did what we were asked to do.” When pointing out the important part they played in keeping us safe from Hitler, they still just felt they were regular guys doing their job. I have heard those very same words from fellow veterans that have served in OEF and OIF.
I have never had a job in which my small boat went across rough ocean water and rocky shores navigating me right onto a beach where everyone was aiming weapons at me and killing my colleagues around me faster than I could load my weapon. I can’t imagine the fortitude of the men who survived while sitting behind their friends on those boats, still paddling and moving forward and fighting on, in an environment of complete chaos, bloodshed and loss. They didn’t try to get away or run. They held up their chins and fought on.
I, on the other hand, simply walked into my office, logged onto my computer and worked my 10 hours without incident. The only risk I had was potentially developing carpal tunnel, obesity or a sore back from sitting at a desk that long. Seriously, there is no parallel between the work life I led versus the “regular job” many veterans claim they did. I can’t show enough gratitude to the men who gave their lives for our freedom.
The combat style in today’s war may be different from WWII but the risk of life is the same. The sacrifice of the families of our military is the same. There are men and women putting themselves in harm’s way every day. We are so thankful for our brave military that are deployed today. I know my husband never felt he measured up at as a soldier in terms of the type of combat he dealt with in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to the WWII veterans, but I am eternally thankful for all of our military who have served its nation.
The valor of our men who fought by air and by sea to keep us free will forever be admired. We also must ensure they're remembered.