On the anniversary of D-Day, we think of our WWII-era volunteer and conscripted men who, young and scared as hell, stormed a machine-gun fortified French beach on June 6, 1944. Not exactly a gentle, sloping beach like Clearwater; it was Omaha beach, a short beach with a high, straight-up cliff behind it. Machine guns pointed down from atop that cliff and strafed the men landing on the short beach below. It was a bloodbath.
These men with wartime intuition knew ahead of the landing that casualty rates would be high, especially for the first wave. That meant that each man knew he would most likely die an awful death. Each man’s love of his free country, America, and the collective pride they all shared as fighting men, fired the impetus and fueled the fury to face their fear. I am in awe of this bravery.
A few days prior to this 70th anniversary, an Army sergeant captivated the news. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deliberately disobeyed orders and left his post in dangerous wartime conditions in Afghanistan and disappeared. Real heroes died trying to find him. A nearly equal number of avowed enemies of America were released to freedom so Bergdahl could come back to the liberty our June 6 heroes ensured for him. Our released enemies are not seeking asylum. I think I shall not want to ever see a flag on Bergdahl’s casket in a military cemetery, certainly not in the hallowed soil of my land.
I have been to the U.S. cemetery at Normandy. I don’t personally know anyone buried there, but I feel a personal, undefinable closeness to each man under each marker. I am the child they never had. I am the person who remembers them when all their family members are gone. I am the American who lives free and invites others to come when they are deprived of their freedom. I owe them a good life. Honor. Duty. Country.