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D-Day Takes On New Meaning On 80th Anniversary

Giphy Images.

Year in and year out on June 6th, the world stops to remember the heroic actions of approximately 160,000 Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Nazi-occupied France to save the free world and rightfully so. Who is to say I am sitting here typing this right now or you're reading this blog on your phone if that mission wasn't successful and so many didn't pay the ultimate sacrifice. We are forever grateful to those men for saving the free world. That is something that always stuck out to me - of course those men looked out for the man to their left and right in their formation but they had the weight of the world on their shoulders. 

Perhaps they didn't realize the gravity of their mission at the time, but with our context now we know it was the beginning of the end for the Nazis and Hitler. 

One letter than isn't as well known is the letter than GEN Eisenhower penned in case the invasion wasn't successful. 

That right there is the epitome of leadership. Lots of folks these days, especially those in positions of power, could take a page out of Ike's book when it comes to accountability and ownership. 

Craig Tidball. Unsplash Images.

I always try to take time to reflect on D Day and pay adequate respect to the bravery displayed that day. I also always do a re-watch of Band of Brothers starting on June 5th as well. However, two intertwined thoughts stuck out for me yesterday that made me realize D Day today on the 80th anniversary is different than previous years. 

Age of the troops landing on Normandy

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It was never lost on me that there were troops who were super young when they landed on those beaches raining with artillery and charging into machine gun fire. Perhaps because I've watched Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan so many times, but I think it's easy to forget how young. It isn't top of mind. Think back to when you were 17 or 18 - what were you doing? What did you look like? Hell, how developed and strong were you? Look at that young boy in the middle of the picture. He can't be more than 18 years old and yet he is prepared to execute the orders he received and follow his leaders into hell on earth. 

The world called upon these man and they answered by offering up everything they had to include their last breath for some. It is truly remarkable when you sit with that fact that there were troops who were not yet men but still somehow found the courage to charge forward. 

Age of the troops now

This is the aspect that makes this year's anniversary especially esteemed. This is likely the last major anniversary of D Day that will occur when any of the men who were there are still alive to tell us about that day. I apologize if that is morbid but that is the reality of time. It's imperative that now, more than ever, we honor these men. They need to know how grateful we truly are. 

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(Chaps had the privilege to interview Woody Williams about the actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor during WWII.)

The National WWII Museum estimates less than 1% of the 16.4 million American soldiers who served during WWII are still alive and living in the U.S. as of 2023. If you happen upon one of those men wearing a WWII Veteran hat, take time out of your day to stop and thank them. Perhaps ask them about their service. I believe they will feel honored to talk to you. It is sad to think that as we approach the 85th, 90th, and ultimately the 100th anniversary of D Day, we will no longer have the men to tell us the first hand accounts of that day. 

In a world today that is battered and bruised with divisiveness and hate, take time to reflect on the men who allowed us to be here. I still believe there is a lot of good in this world. I still believe we live in the greatest country. I am grateful for the sacrifice, bravery, and strength of a generation that came before me. Take time to remember them today and honor their legacy. 

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