Understanding who we are today as Americans living in a democracy -- because of the sacrifices of those we honor on June 6th -- is a solemn responsibility for every American. Pictured: US Army infantrymen wade ashore at Omaha Beach in France, during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. (Photo by Robert F. Sargent/STF/National Archoves/AFP/Getty Images)
Understanding who we are today as Americans living in a democracy -- because of the sacrifices of those we honor on June 6th -- is a solemn responsibility for every American. Yet few will acknowledge the date or the solemn obligation.
On that date, June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, confronting Nazi troops that had conquered much of Europe. General Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the invasion, reminding his troops, "We will accept nothing less than full victory."
More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day's end, the Allies had begun to push the Germans back, but some 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded that day.
Pinned down for hours by German fire, brave Allied soldiers recognized what was at stake: literally the liberation of a continent. Confronting unimaginable obstacles, they found the means to push the enemy back, climb the heights overlooking at the beaches, destroy the bunkers that contained heavy cannons and begin the task of defeating the Nazi Third Reich.
Having walked the Normandy beaches with my wife a number of years ago, we were struck by the serenity of its current condition as we quietly reflected on the carnage and courage that was on this same stretch of beach the morning of June 6th, 1944. We would offer silent prayers to the thousands who fell there that day and those now buried not far from where they died.
To their credit, the French have never lost sight of what occurred there. They continue to honor those interred just behind the beaches with a daily flag ceremony at the cemetery that leaves the visitor choked with emotion.
Yet too many Americans will mark June 6th as just another day on the calendar. We have no reason to blame them, however, for our society has not instilled within them an appreciation of our nation's history, the sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform, or the fact that on one dreary morning in June 1944, the world held its breath. It was fate and the indomitable courage of young Americans who determined whether our world would be plunged forever into darkness or be offered the ability to rekindle the spark of freedom.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.