75 Years Since Normandy: Always Remember
Why We Need To Remember
For the most part, we Canadians live a pretty charmed life in the 21st century.
Most individuals under the age of 50 - apart from those who have served in the military and have been sent off to places like Afghanistan and seen their fellow military members die - have no clue about the sacrifices made in times of battle. Unless we've seen movies such as Saving Private Ryan, we have no clue about what those who died in battle have gone through.
Were it not for the brave men who were part of the contingent who fought their way onto Juno Beach in spite of incredible odds, we would likely not be living the life that we currently enjoy. It's long been said that it was D-Day that ultimately changed the course of World War II, and were it not for the Canadian Army, whose responsibility was to take the beach with support from the Royal Canadian Navy and the British Royal Navy as well as elements from the Free French, Norwegian, and other Allied navies, we might not have realized the victory that ultimately came.
It was a hellish battle, to be sure. Most of us have heard the stories, largely centered around the first wave of men that were brutally decimated by German artillery as they attempted to make their way ashore. To try and wend your way onto a beachfront while your buddies dropped around you, never to take another breath, had to be horrifying. How do you stay focussed and carry out your orders in the midst of that sort of mayhem?
Not to oversimplify things, but for the military, you just do. You have to, and when guns are blazing all around you, you can't just sit there. That's what made - and makes - our military men and women (and those from other countries) so special. These people knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, what they'd signed up for, and while there may have been certain elements of it that were mysterious and unknown in the leadup to ultimately heading overseas as part of Canada's military contingent, they knew there was a possibility that they could possibly die on the field of battle.
We are part of a generation that is considerably removed from wartime. While today's youth is very much aware of conflicts such as those that unfolded in Afghanistan and Iraq, the notion of hundreds of ships descending on a beach, with thousands of men armed and ready for battle and armed with the knowledge that they might very well not return home. Why? In the name of freedom. In the name of stopping a madman bent on world domination. In the name of safety for all.
It's hard to fathom, as I'm sitting and typing on my computer, the mindset and sheer courage it would take to launch myself out of one of those boats, dodge bullets and the falling bodies of my comrades, and keep moving to my ultimate goal because I was ordered to do so. The sheer force of will and belief that what you're doing is better for the world had to have been incredible, and it's because of those qualities that we enjoy the freedom we do today.
We need to remember these incredible sacrifices, especially now, 75 years later and beyond. The numbers of soldiers who would have been involved in D-Day and who would have survived are dwindling, and so, there are fewer to share their stories. We need to remember days like D-Day in order to continue to appreciate the significant sacrifices that were made in order that we should enjoy the freedoms we continue to enjoy today.
These were men who were wondering if life was continuing as it tends to in their absence. Some were expectant fathers. Some were siblings, making promises to take care of the other's family should one of them not make it home.
These are considerations that we've never even had to think of in this 21st-century world - at least, for the most part. While the objectives of the D-Day landing were not technically made, what these brave soldiers did on June 6, 1944 were historic and helped ensure freedom for all.