As another D-Day anniversary rolls around, many Americans wonder what kind of nation — what kind of world — we have ended up with, and perhaps even whether the courage and sacrifice of our forebears in that remarkable amphibious invasion was ultimately worth it.
This concern is not to be dismissed. It isn’t enough to be blithely optimistic about America’s future. It is necessary to realize that we will have to change things we’re doing, if that optimism is to be justified. American cannot remain worth the sacrifices that have been made for her, if she does not change her course.
But history is not a mere scrapbook of sentimental memories. It’s a guide to today. And the history we should be studying now is the history of courage in the face of great odds. Such courage is not only present at the time when battle is joined. It is also indispensable when vision is being translated into plans. The first one who has to stand up to the reality of obstacles and danger isn’t the executor on scene. It’s the decision-maker who decides what must be done — who faces up to what has to be done, and goes forth, and sends people forth, to plan and execute. In some ways, this stage is the one at which is has often been the hardest to have courage.
To help us study courage, we can turn to a superb D-Day piece by David Smith at Breitbart, which outlines why D-Day 1944 was the most important day of the 20th century.
I’m providing a link as well to my post from last year, the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Taking a cue from Ronald Reagan’s now-iconic 1984 D-Day address, I tied his description of courage to the task we face today of reclaiming our nation:
America was born from the tenacity of generations of the “boys of Pointe du Hoc.” From the pilgrims on the leaky, lice-ridden Mayflower to the fight for beach-heads in the Pacific in 1944 and 1945, going in where there are no guarantees, yet everything we hold dear is on the line, is what we do.
Every few generations, Americans have embarked on an epic enterprise of breathtaking daring: the kind of enterprise a society of complacent busybodies, one that obsesses over “hate speech” and salt content, would call crazy or irresponsible. Many Americans today would like to see laws that prohibit precisely the daring of liberty that America has made her name and her fortune exercising. Such complacency is the sheerest of cliffs, and it has machine-guns all over it, manned by an army of desperate defenders terrified of the unknown. We may know the cliff has to be scaled, but that doesn’t mean we can see how to do it.
Reagan’s simple narrative is a good start, though. Throw up a rope ladder and start climbing. When one man falls, take his place, and keep going. When a rope is cut, throw up another and start again. Climb, shoot back, and hold our footing. Soon, one by one, we’ll pull ourselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top, begin to seize back our heritage and our future.
The boys of Pointe du Hoc didn’t know in advance that their fight would be won. Neither do we know today whether ours will be.
Before moving on to Reagan’s speech, I’d like to update you on one item from last year. Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, the oldest living paratrooper from the Normandy invasion, jumped into France on D-Day of 2014 to commemorate the 70th anniversary. I’m happy to report that he’s in France again this year, at the age of 93, to remember once more the battle fought by him and his brothers in arms. He posted a photo from yesterday to Facebook.
May we earn their sacrifice and courage.
And now, here’s the one and only.