Recently I had the privilege of speaking at the D-Day reenactment in Conneaut. To say that I was deeply moved is an understatement. To sit on the same stage with Mr. Ray Woods, a veteran of that assault who was presented with the French Legion of Honor, and a small number of other veterans who have earned that same award, was an experience I shall never forget.
The organizers of D-Day, especially Betsy Bashore and Lori McLaughlin, deserve special kudos along with the whole City of Conneaut for an outstanding effort. All of Conneaut should be proud for hosting such a spectacular event!
I offer below, my humble remarks as a way to communicate the great appreciation I have for the efforts of all those who sacrificed so much on that day in June 1944 and why it is important to remember their unselfish acts of bravery…
As the son, son-in-law, and nephew of WW II veterans, I was the lucky beneficiary of their recollections of that conflict. From Pearl Harbor, to Doolittle’s Raid, Midway, Torch, Overlord, the Bulge, and the USS Missouri — I listened intently through the years as each of my beloved family members shared their experiences.
Sadly, each of those voices I once heard are hushed, stilled by death. But on occasion, those same voices echo in my mind and are heard once more. To see, to hear, to feel the emotions of that day long ago, is to relive it, even though vicariously, but for a moment.
This, then, is one of the main reasons why we gather to remember this day of liberation, of France, of Europe, and from the dark cloud of tyranny which shadowed all of mankind in the mid 20th century. We are gathered to remember the struggle and the valor of those brave souls who fought that day and to honor them for their service. This we do with grateful hearts.
I would also suggest, however, that we simply do not remember the events of this day and carry on with our daily life. That would be too shallow and too fleeting to fully appreciate what was done for all of us on those forlorn beaches that early summer day.
My dear friends, collectively we have a far greater mission. Beyond remembrance, we are called to preserve freedom for ourselves and for others, here at home and around the world. We are called to banish bigotry and defend the defenseless. We are made to be active participants in this great experiment we call democracy and to shine a light on oppression wherever it may exist and to eradicate it without delay. The preservation of democracy is not a passive pastime — it is an active and vibrant pursuit of a greater justice for all people, at all places, at all times. Those who sacrificed their lives for us deserve no less from us than to promote, protect and preserve those democratic freedoms so essential for the betterment of humankind.