The opening scene of this video is very familiar to all of us. It is the metaphorical view of a single soldier looking toward the beaches at Normandy from a landing craft. His fellow soldiers are already in the water, slogging toward the beach, and he knows that he must follow. We can imagine the sound of bullets buzzing past and the metallic clink of other bullets striking the hull of the landing craft. In real time, that individual would also have seen his brothers falling, struck down by a single bullet, never to make it ashore.
To have the courage to run into the face of that onslaught of bullets and shells is, by definition, uncommon valor. But each man went. Each stepped into the cold waters, heavy with packs filled with essentials and ammunition, each following the orders of the day, each believing he would, somehow, make it to shore and begin the fight.
Most did not have the “big picture,” the end-game of the mission, in mind. They simply knew that they had to get ashore, to fight like mad to get to the beaches and then go against the well-entrenched German forces and take what they presently held away from them. But that was enough. They all knew, at some level, that this day had to be won in order to begin to defeat the existential threats to freedom that the Nazi ideology presented to the world. It would be and was a desperate event. Everything was hanging in the balance.
The beginning of this video is both visually and aurally powerful. It is backed by the music of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and the words, in Latin, sung by an acapella chorus, “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” That is an evocation of the deeper reality of war: it is always the result, ultimately, of human brokenness. It is the sin of Cain killing his brother Abel, enacted on a global scale. It is a revelation of the phrase, “War is Hell!”
Sunday, June 6, 2021, was the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy. We must never forget the courage, the immense, almost incomprehensible sacrifices those men displayed and undertook on that momentous day. It really was the turning point in the bloodiest of wars in human history. It was the beginning of the end for the disturbed, inhumane, and inexpressibly destructive evil of Nazism and its attempt to bring much of the world under its control.
We can never repay the courage, the determination, the dedication to duty, and the sacrifices for freedom that were undertaken by those young men that went ashore that day. They were Americans and Canadians and Brits who came from the cities, towns, and villages of their countries, men from the ranks of the common citizens of their countries. They went into the jaws of hell scared yet aware of their duties. They were the very definition of heroism. They truly were the Greatest Generation of the 20th century. Without their efforts that day, the dream of freedom might have been lost for a long time.
Honor, gratitude, and respect are what we need to bring to the memory and the celebration of this day called D-Day on those beaches on the Normandy coast of France on June 6, 1944. Those men saved the world as we know it that day.