76 years ago, the Allied Expeditionary Force launched the largest seaborne invasion in the history of the world, embarking upon a great crusade to free millions of oppressed peoples. Through blood, sweat, toil, and tears, 156,000 young men fought inch-by-inch to secure a foothold for the Allied liberation of Western Europe. Thousands of these young heroes never lived to see the days end.
They fought to protect and defend our freedom—freedom for themselves, for their families, for their loved ones, neighbors, and communities. They also fought to liberate millions of people they never met, in countries many of them had never heard of and in places most would never return to. They fought for the freedoms we often take for granted.
Like many in my generation, I’ve had the honor of listening to the stories of the heroes who fought to secure the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. That, sadly, is becoming less and less common. Today, fewer than 1,000 D-Day veterans survive, and of the 16 million Americans that served during World War II, only half a million are still with us today. That number is shrinking every day.
It’s a sad reality that some of these stories of incredible heroism on D-Day, the days that preceded it, and the days that followed have been lost to the sands of time. There are men who endured unimaginable pain, suffering, and sacrifice to protect our freedom, men whose names and stories we will never know. In that reality lies a challenge for all of us— to listen, to learn, and to understand the stories of those that remain and those that are no longer with us.
Each and every one of us should strive to learn of the incredible sacrifices made that day by our American soldiers, sailors, and airmen. We must learn their stories and their struggles and be reminded of what they fought so fiercely to protect. Freedom isn’t free and we all owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who have paid for it in blood, sweat, and tears.