In many ways, these are tough times for all Americans. The media is filled with reports of the great divisions among Americans on politics and policies, with fires stoked by emotions reflecting a strong desire for one direction or the other. I suspect that America will not have unanimity on these issues any time soon, at least not in my lifetime.
That may be disheartening for many. It certainly is for me. At the same time, I am heartened by the increased honor and respect I believe all Americans now have for our current military and for our veterans, so many of whom gave their all in defense of our country and for the freedom we enjoy.
PERSPECTIVE: The simple power of art and common spaces
In the last month we have celebrated Memorial Day, D-Day, and Flag Day, each of which commemorates in a different way the strengths and valor of Americans who put their country above themselves. (What a novel thought!) The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor and cherish our memories of those Americans who died in the defense of their country. D-Day, while not officially designated a holiday, commands a special place in our hearts for the staggering invasion the Allies launched against German forces at Normandy in 1944. A proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, June 14 commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our nation’s flag by a resolution by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Together these three days, these three commemorations, give all of us an opportunity to think about the strengths of our country and the strengths of our people. On Memorial Day this year I had the opportunity to visit Normandy, its beaches, its cliffs, hedgerows and monuments. I had read the books and I had seen the movies: “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan.” They gave spectacular presentations of both the enormity and the intimacy of the invasion. There was something special about actually seeing the Channel waters, the beaches and the cliffs, as I tried to imagine what that beautiful scenery looked like on D-Day when it was filled with ships, crawling with thousands of allied soldiers and sailors while airmen and paratroopers filled the skies.
PERSPECTIVE: What I learned about the world from my neighbors.
At Pointe du Hoc, midway between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, there is a granite pylon erected by the French as a monument to the American Second Ranger Battalion, whose members scaled the 100-foot cliffs and took out the embedded German artillery that had been carefully positioned to protect both beaches. As I stood next to that monument and looked at the treacherous cliffs extending in both directions, I was humbled as I absorbed the image of these Rangers clawing up these cliffs while enemy soldiers were firing virtually straight down upon them. Today it is so serene, with the Stars and Stripes (along with the flags of our allies) continuing to fly over Pointe du Hoc, giving renewed honor to those brave men.
Along Omaha Beach lies the American cemetery. As we approached the semi-circular colonnade I saw thousands of flower arrangements. Some were from government agencies, but many of the baskets were from French elementary schools, as I realized that it was today’s children who had filled these baskets with blooming flowers and then marked them with the crossed flags of France and the United States.
It was chilling, yet beautiful, to look over almost 10,000 white crosses spread over 170 acres. It was a special opportunity to salute these brave men. It was good to see the American flag proudly waving above. It was good to be an American.
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Merle Wilberding, a Dayton attorney, is one of our regular contributors.