As I write this post on the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we in the United States are celebrating our annual stream of patriotic holidays — Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day. Ceremonies are conducted. Flags are flown.
I am more than glad to take part in ceremonies that help remind us of the sacrifices made by so many people on our behalf. Their sacrifices have allowed me to live and raise my family in a country that tenaciously guards freedom for all.
Twice each year our local American Legion puts on a small, yet meaningful remembrance service at one of our town cemeteries — once on Memorial Day and again on Veterans’ Day. These ceremonies are complete with patriotic readings, prayer, the playing of Taps, a three-gun salute, an American flag risen on the flag pole then lowered to half-mast, and a red, white, and blue floral wreath placed at the base of the flag pole all in honor of the fallen. Most of the people in attendance are older members of the post, their spouses and a few people from the community.I always try to attend. And I bring my children. By attending they will learn to care about things that matter like respect, honor, and patriotism. At these memorial celebrations they witness these qualities in action. These services not only help bring us together as a community and connect us to our past, but celebrating them with our families will assure that our children will continue to remember the sacrifices that have been made for them. They will learn that the good life we experience today, due to the service and sacrifice of so many veterans, should never be taken for granted.
We’ve learned from the past that a threat can come from anywhere at anytime so our soldiers are on guard around the world to make sure our safety and freedom is protected. Just yesterday, the body of a young soldier, from my community, Christopher Drake, 20, was flown home from Afghanistan after he served there for only five months. He was killed in the line of duty.
I don’t think recent generations in America can have any idea of what it truly means to have freedom threatened. I know we have experienced isolated terrorist attacks, but we don’t know what it would be like to have an enemy army come barreling into our towns and cities and across our countryside bombing our buildings and homes, shooting civilians, and committing other brutal atrocities in order to take over our country.
All of this happened in Europe only a generation ago and it threatened to cross the oceans and engulf the United States. Americans genuinely had to accept the reality that the enemy may actually engage in fighting on our own soil and in our coastal waters. In fact, in World War II the enemy made attacks on our territories and sunk ships in our own waters.
In her diary from 1941 before the United States entered the war, Louisiana resident Bea Denham expressed these very real fears many times through the year as she listened to the war unfold in Europe. Here are some poignant excerpts:
April 7th – “...they are openly saying now that our country is practically in the War,…Oh, what a dreadful thing to happen! … we can’t survive in Hitler’s world.”
April 9th – “Things never looked blacker to me. Oh, war is too horrible! Nobody can foresee where all this will end, but there can’t be any easy solution and settlement for us.“
April 13th – “The war news is worse than ever. It seems all the world is against democratic government. We are bound to go to war soon, it seems to me. Horrible thought.”
May 2nd – “The war news is worse each day that passes. … It is generally predicted that very few more months of peace are left to us.”
May 27th – “We listened to Roosevelt, and I could only feel that war is ever so much nearer. This little endangered peace we are enjoying now will be our last, I’m afraid. Our world after war won’t be the same. We are watching the dying of an age, and only God knows what will come out of it. We will never see the end, or know carefree happy days again. There have been very few for our generation anyway.”
May 28th – “…the shadows ahead are so thick and heavy, with certain suffering and heartache, bitter want for the whole world after this orgy of bloodshed and waste.”
June 21st – “This war seems destined to envelope the globe.”
July 24th – “…I am afraid the war is nearer to us than we think. …Japan is definitely off the fence she has tried to straddle so long and is in the German camp.”
October 27th – “… it looks like Hitler will acquire world domination much sooner than anybody could have expected unless we decide to go all out for his defeat, and quit this everlasting stalling.”
November 4th – Germany has torpedoed another boat…Just anything can happen now, and it seems to me we are going to have to fight in the Atlantic and Pacific simultaneously. This war keeps one’s spirits at the lowest ebb constantly.
November 18th “…Japan is blustering, and will probably do more than that before it’s all over. This world certainly seems to be in a mess.”
December 7th – I thought of the beautiful music we often have on Sunday afternoon, and turned on the radio to hear, “Japan has bombed the Philippines and Hawaiian Islands,” – such a rude awakening to cold reality. Its WAR now, to the death. This is no longer an oasis in a world of war, its total, and there’s no telling where it will end. I could cry my eyes out.
December 8th – “Somehow I only feel numb, and as if I were having a nightmare, and will soon awake. We are entering on very dark days and perhaps years.”
December 20th - “I’m so scared. They passed Selective Service – 20 to 45 – this week, and what would I do if Earl had to leave me?”
It was the men and women of America who fought and won against seemingly invincible Germany and Japan. Many fought and died. Today soldiers are still fighting and dying in service to our country. So the next time you meet a veteran express your gratitude. Or if your community conducts a patriotic ceremony, take time out from your busy day and attend to show your respect and patriotism.