By Richard Bleil
My writing often occurs very late before I go to bed. Today it’s tomorrow, so although I’m writing it as the entry for the fifth, you’ll be reading this on the sixth. So, let’s take a moment to dedicate this to those who fought at D-Day.
By all rights, I’m probably not actually qualified to write about this topic. I certainly was not there (after 75 years ago, few were), and what’s more, I am neither in the military, nor am I a veteran. I am, however, in awe of those who have been and are in the military. I am, additionally, thankful for their service. I am, nonetheless, in great respect for the men and women of the military, past and present, those who fell and those who survived.
Thank you, each and every one of you, who have served bravely, proudly, and ethically to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone.
Can you imagine what it must have been like, a very young adult, just out of high school, on a boat heading to a beach like none you have ever seen, or will ever see again. On Normandy Beach alone, over 150,000 Americans would land. Of them, around 10,000 were wounded or killed.
Ten thousand dead and wounded. On the fifty mile stretch, that’s 200 per mile, the equivalent of 20 in a length of beach of about one city block. Shells exploding on either side of the landing craft, the sound of endless gunfire, the water tossing and turning until suddenly the craft crashes to a halt. Suddenly the front falls away, and everybody aboard begin running as fast as possible onto the beach, with fellow passengers falling as you try to sprint.
It seems as though the conflicts are getting smaller, but the dangers are just as real as they were then. But the dangers are no less real, and the courage no less incredible. Dire Straits performed a song called “Brothers in Arms” that beautifully embraces the camaraderie of the relationships forged in the crucible of fire, a brotherhood that people like me will never know.
It’s unfortunate that war puts such incredible men and women in harms way, but is it possible that it is the prospect of war that makes them so incredible?
In a country as divided as we are as a nation, our service members should be a shining example of how to put aside differences and work together for a common good. I find it disappointing when they are publicized for somebody else’s agenda. On popular social media, it seems like every other day there’s another photo of a veteran saying that they were fighting to protect this right, or were not fighting for that. But, you can’t really believe these claims. Opinions within the military, no doubt, are as diverse as those among “civilians”. No doubt, one could find veterans to agree with any position one might like, or, indeed, to find actors to pretend to be veterans to speak to a script.
The problem with such politicization is that it tarnishes what should be a sterling reputation. Of course, whether a veteran or not, each service member has the right to their own opinions, and the right to speak out (although, as I understand it, active military members often have specific regulations of what they can and cannot say), but political camps should have more respect for the military than to use them for their own gain. As Americans, shouldn’t we fight to protect the reputations of the veterans as they have fought for our freedoms?
Our military has fought with honor for our country since the beginning, often overcoming incredible odds. In the Revolutionary war, outnumbered and poorly trained when compared with the British troops, the “minutemen” kept loaded weapons ready to respond immediately, and won independence for us. In the Civil War, American were called on to fight with their own brothers in a brutal conflict that can arguably be a “dress rehearsal” for the “great war”, in that many of the trench warfare techniques developed in the Civil War was utilized. In modern warfare, troops find themselves fighting dirty tactics including improvised explosive devices and terrorists.
In the second world war, America found herself fighting on multiple fronts. The tank warfare in Africa, the naval battles of the pacific, and the ground war in Europe was a great test of American resolve, and all of our branches of service were involved. But of all of the warfare through the years, and all of the fronts of the second war to fail to end all wars, the courage of our troops on the beaches of Normandy and Utah beaches, the paratroopers and glider troops that landed behind enemy lines, and naval maneuvers cannot be forgotten.