It was on June 6, 1944 that more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline with the goal in mind to alter the tide of WWII. This was assisted by 200,000 seamen, 7,000 ships, 24,000 airborne troops and 12,000 aircraft. The largest war time operation ever undertaken in the history of mankind. They had the daunting task of fighting some of Nazi Germany's best troops, not in the open as they were, but protected by astounding bunkers on the beaches of Normandy. Gen. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade that could not fail, anything less than full victory was not an option. When the offensive was over the Allies did exactly what they set out to do, gain a foot hold in Europe. The cost in Allied lives was high with more than 9,000 soldiers killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the difficult journey inland to defeat Hitler’s troops. It is this incredible effort and sacrifice we recognize today.
With that said, what does it mean to us today to commemorate the event? It depends upon our desire to remember and our determination to push the ideals fought for ahead. Remembrance is wilful, a thoughtful act to ponder. A great example of this is in France which has continued to act and sought out American veterans, especially of D-Day, and decorated them with the country's highest form of recognition, the Legion of Honor. Evidence of the vow that "France Will Never Forget."
We should reaffirm the values for which the veterans of D-Day fought and died. They were defending the freedom we hold dear today. But it is not enough for us to just remember, we should continue to support and promote the vital traits of democracy. It is critical we show by example that civilized societies are the embodiment of western democracy. "What's the difference that D-Day makes?" That depends on how we remember and what we do with the freedoms it helped protect, this year and in every year to come.