Today is the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. How many people will remember that when they wake up this morning? Next year will be the 70th anniversary of that massive military maneuver and there are very few people left across America and the world who actually participated in the assault. That’s the passage of time, which we all realize that we can’t do much about. But at the same time, it makes me so sad. The term “greatest generation” has become almost cliché. How can we call the generation that came of age in the late 30s and 40s our nation’s greatest, when there are so many other candidates: our Founding Fathers who rose up against British tyranny, the generation of abolitionists and Civil War veterans who fought and died to make men and women free, among others. But the World War II generation is at least among the greatest, fighting in Europe and the Pacific and then returning home without the need for praise, starting families and businesses. Now they’re nearly all gone. How long until World War II is something completely unfamiliar to high school students, or is it already? Luckily, miniseries like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” keep that history alive. Locally, we have an annual airport festival that showcases World War II aircraft and history, exposing kids to the vibrant lives of those who aren’t around to share their own stories. The last World War II veteran in the U.S. Senate, Frank Lautenberg, died this week. The Dept. of Veterans Affairs estimated back in 2011 that 670 WWII vets die every day. We can’t let their stories, their successes, their sacrifices die with them.
I’ve attached a slideshow a friend of mine put together, looking back on that day in 1944.