On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, turning the tide of WWII in Europe and marking the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, I want to take just a moment to remember my father and the others of his generation who sacrificed so much for so many.
My father was drafted in August 1943 and, leaving his bride of less than two years, boarded the U.S.S Robert Sherman in New York harbor for the dangerous trip across the North Atlantic. Just before the ship sailed, a Red Cross volunteer came on board to tell him that his first child had been born, my older sister, who he would not see for almost 2 years.
He entered France through Normandy about a month after D-Day and marched all the way across Europe to Berlin. From the time he was drafted and during the seventeen months he was with Patton’s Army in Europe, my parents wrote to one another almost every day. And it is a poignant tribute to their 65-year romance that both of them kept all of the letters. In 2002 my father edited these letters into several volumes, which he simply called “The War Letters” and he gave a bound copy to me and to each of my sisters.
This remarkable document, covering the period between August 1943 and November 1945, chronicles the lives of two people—ordinary citizens and new parents—and the incredible sacrifices that their generation made to win the war and to rebuild the world in its aftermath. Before my father died in 2006 I used to call him up every June 6th on the anniversary of D-Day and thank him for saving the world … because that is exactly what his generation did.
Both my parents are gone now, but much of what we take for granted today is the result of the sacrifices they made—along with millions of others—75 years ago. I am sure that they would be dismayed to see how deeply divided our nation has become over the intervening decades. Yet, if we take just a moment to reflect on the values and ideals they fought and died for, we can begin to recapture the spirit that once united us. Perhaps, then, we can remember and recommit ourselves to the fact that we are truly all in this together, that our state and our nation won’t be a good place for any of us to live unless it’s a good place for all of us to live; and that we cannot build a hopeful, inclusive and secure future without joining hands once more in common cause.
Thank you, Dad, for saving the world.