It’s another ambiguous day in the annals of American and military history. Troops and veterans across all branches of the military will stand united to remember the D-Day Landings on Normandy beaches 76 years.
Like most days, I struggle with how to remember this day. Sure, we played a part in freeing the Jewish people in Europe from a very systematic genocide. Yes, we freed western Europe from the grips of facism (the nationalist combination of socialism and corporatism). None of this is disputable, nor should it be. A lot of evil was eradicated from the world by these events. However, we became bedmates with Communism to accomplish this mission. We teamed up with a dictator who had far reaped far more disastrous events upon his people and political opponents. By holding hands with Communism to kill Nazism, we helped not only armed it against its own people, we facilitated the spread across eastern Europe and into Asia. For this, we are as much to blame as we are in our drive to rid Europe of Nazism. Sure, people say that the Red Army really beat the Nazis by taking Berlin where Hitler was holed up before suiciding. However, that simplistic argument doesn’t acknowledge that without US intervention by providing tanks and steel to the Soviets, such a drive from Russia into Germany wouldn’t have been possible.
Last year, on the 75th anniversary, I had the privilege to accompany some battle buddies from the Mustang team as they set out to accomplish a ruck from Omaha Beach to Point Du Hoc. Before they took off, a veteran from the Omaha Beach landing was gave a quick speech to everyone. It was a chance meeting, but it worked out in their -and my- favor because we got to hear him.
I haven’t transcribed everything from the video -and the wind makes it hard for me to catch what he said word for word. What I do know is that he did not speak of American exceptionalism. He didn’t speak of American greatness, America’s role in winning or the like. This man, who lost more friends than I can fathom on that bloody morning, spoke of love. Those were his parting words. “Learn to love one another!” Imagine this man, if you can, from a generation so far removed from the progress we’ve made in race relations, our treatment of women, and allowing people to freely express their sexuality… and this is his message. This man’s message was that we need to love each other.
So, here I sit in the year 2020, 76 years after the D-Day landings, on the patio of a Bavarian house, some 100+ kilometers from Munich, where Nazism garnered its foothold in the German populace, trying to reminisce on the events of last summer and the role of America in World War II, and I still don’t know what to feel or what to express.
I suppose it should be exactly what that amazing veteran said last year -Love each other! Our own country now sits within the grips of civil unrest as people protest racism, police brutality, and authoritarianism. It’s time that we put our hands together and love each other. If we don’t, the only color anyone will see will be the red as it flows through the streets and into the ground. Most of the Germans I know today hang their heads in shame at the events in leading up to and during World War II by the political leadership of the times. I don’t blame them. They’re not to blame. They were barely thoughts at the time. But for us living today, we need to take a good hard look around and ask ourselves if anything we have done has made the world better? Have we really loved each other? It’s high time that we did.