Some 75 years ago, on the beaches of Normandy, more than 160,000 Allied soldiers landed across a 50 mile stretch of French coastline.
Allied forces battled rough and frigid water only to be met at the shore by German machine guns and coastal batteries that spewed deadly artillery fire. This would be the largest amphibious military operation in history.
Just before they would embark on this daring mission, just before they would leave the safety of British waters and engage Nazi occupied Europe, General Eisenhower spoke to his troops. Those who didn’t receive a paper copy heard the message read by Eisenhower himself, over loudspeakers aboard the ships. He said, "The tide has turned! The freemen of the world are marching together to victory.... We will accept nothing less than full victory!"
Those words proved prophetic: the Allied Forces claimed full victory, but at a cost. While the exact number of casualties is unknown, it is estimated that around 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded during this operation. These were young men, with an average age of just 21 and their whole lives ahead of them. They sacrificed their futures so that freedom could know its own.
As we mark the anniversary of Operation Neptune, we know it simply by its code name, D-Day. The events of June 6, 1944 and the days that followed were a godsend as the war in Europe shifted. It is our duty and privilege to remember the souls who stormed the blood-stained beaches. We pause to remember those who fought and died so that generations would know freedom. But perhaps there is more we can do to pay tribute to the soldiers’ sacrifice.
May I suggest that a particular shift in our national consciousness could truly honor the heroes of D-Day. I can only imagine the sense of comfort and pride that came to the soldier’s heart when he was told by his General that “the freemen of the world are marching together.” I believe our workplaces, our homes, and certainly our government would benefit from a renewed commitment to this sense of unity. Every day in Congress, I witness citizens championing worthy causes that could connect us and bills that could bring us together. However, too often I also see political disagreements that divide us and partisan games that seek to obstruct. It doesn’t feel like we are marching together very often.
We don’t always agree, nor should we, but disagreement doesn’t have to be uncivil and divisive. Civility should be the rule, not the exception. Far too often we seem to forget that the American people are on the same team.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it is my hope that each of us will look for opportunities to come together to collaborate, and to compromise when necessary. Thanks to the heroes of D-Day, the freemen and women of the world can march on together.