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June 5, 2024

Profiles of Valor: The Last D-Day Vets Standing

“The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. … And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” —John 15:13

Thursday of this week, June 6th, 2024, marks the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe at Normandy, D-Day. The photos of the few Veterans who remain and were able to return to the beaches where so many friends were lost are inspiring. They embody the American Spirit of their Greatest Generation, many of whom I have featured in Profiles of Valor over the years. (See photos here.)

They are the last of the D-Day Vets standing — fewer than 200 remain, and their average age is over 100. It is fitting that D-Day follows close behind Memorial Day as a visceral reminder of enormous sacrifice.

A total of 66 Veterans are expected to return for the week-long observance, the youngest being 95 and the oldest 107. The fitting commemorative events are outlined in a 30-page program of activities along the 50-mile stretch of beaches. They include various reenactments, airborne parachute jumps, military convoys, and parades and ceremonies featuring dignitaries from around the world.

Kathryn and Don Edwards, who operate Best Defense Foundation, arranged travel and accommodations for many of those returning. Kathryn says, “This is going to be the last hurrah,” and her mission is to ensure that these Vets and their families “know what they did is still respected and honored.” Also, a note of appreciation here for American Airlines, which not only provided Veteran transportation for this anniversary event but also provides transportation at no charge for all our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients every day of the year.

One of those returning, Californian Bill Becker, was warmed by the welcome he and the other Vets received at Deauville, Normandy: “These people love us so much. It’s overwhelming. I made it.” And indeed, they do love these Americans. There is not a native French resident in the area who does not have a family connection and survival story from this dark period of history. Bill adds: “I feel very good that we did something to help win the war. We did something in this world that made it better.” And at a great cost.

Florida native Harold Terens, 100, recalls vividly: “It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my life. Bodies without arms and legs, bodies without heads — war is hell.”

But Harold’s return trip includes a significant side trip. This week, he is marrying his 96-year-old fiancee, Jeanne Swerlin, saying, “Love is not reserved for the young.” A faithful man, he says, “I came here to invite all those soldiers buried on Omaha Beach, 9,836 of them, to my wedding. I’d like them to attend in spirit. And I want them to know that they’re not forgotten.”

Notably, I devoted two recent columns profiling a subset of the current generation of young Americans — those in the age range of the young men who endeavored to survive crossing the Normandy beaches 80 years ago. Disgracefully, some young people were never taught by their Boomer and Gen X parents to live their lives worthy of the sacrifice of all who have gone before.

What follows is an account Americans of all ages should know about such sacrifice.

In the early hours of June 6th, 1944, the largest amphibious assault in history, preceded by an enormous air assault, commenced.

Codenamed “Operation Neptune,” the first phase of “Operation Overlord” is commonly referred to as D-Day, a brutal five-day Allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy coast of France by sea and air to breach the Germans’ Atlantic Wall. Combined with the Allied Forces’ invasion of Italy nine months earlier, it would seal the demise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ “NAZI” Party and its reign of terror.

Shortly after midnight, 2,200 Allied bombers and attack aircraft began their assault on German strongholds along the beaches of Normandy. The bombardment was followed by more than 24,000 U.S., British, and Canadian airborne troops who parachuted behind the beachheads. Aerial and naval bombardments continued to soften German positions at the five landing zones codenamed Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

After the initial assault was underway, President Franklin Roosevelt’s message and prayer for our military personnel spoke to the enormity of the task and the arduous battles that would follow. FDR noted, “Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.” He prayed, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, a man of deep faith, encouraged his troops, reminding them: “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. … And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Ike had also prepared another note in the event Operation Neptune failed: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

The free world will forever owe a debt of gratitude to all those who, by God’s grace and their sacrifice, ensured that Eisenhower did not have to deliver that second message.

Through heavy swells in the English Channel, an Allied armada was launched, and by sunrise, more than 132,000 Allied infantry began landing along 50 miles of Normandy beaches. They came in 289 escort vessels with 277 minesweepers, and they waded ashore from more than 5,000 landing and assault craft.

The NAZI defenses were formidable: 50,000 troops manning 170 coastal 100mm and 210mm artillery guns and 320mm rocket launchers rained murderous fire down upon the Allied Forces as they struggled ashore amid endless machine-gun and sniper fire.

By the end of the first day, there were more than 10,000 Allied casualties, with 4,426 confirmed dead and many more missing in action. Those killed included 2,509 Americans — more single-day American battle deaths than Antietam or Pearl Harbor, and an estimated 4,100 wounded. Their names are immortalized at the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia. There were 1,914 Allied soldiers killed.

There is no comprehensive account of all the heroic acts that day – the actions of those who placed the lives of their brothers above their own. Most of those actions have been lost in the history of the moment, never recorded. However, there were 10 Medals of Honor awarded to recipients, whose heroic actions were representative of those by hundreds of others during that five-day assault. You can read about them here: “Profiles of Valor: The D-Day Medals of Honor.”

As the landing zones were secured in the following days, the initial infantry and airborne units pushed inward. By the end of June, more than 875,000 Allied troops had crossed the English Channel, and by mid-August, more than two million Allied troops had landed, incurring almost 226,000 casualties — 72,911 killed/missing and 153,475 wounded. Along with many French resistance fighters, almost 15,000 civilians were killed.

Ronald Reagan’s summarized their service and sacrifice in his brief remarks for the 40th D-Day anniversary, delivered at the U.S. Ranger Monument, Pointe Du Hoc and Omaha Beach.

You can learn more about this pivotal moment in our history, and that of the entire world, by visiting the outstanding National WWII Museum and the Army D-Day website, where you can listen to Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day message.

Today, the NAZI bunkers above Normandy’s beaches remain as solemn and silent reminders of tyranny, and the region is now marked with many fitting tribute monuments to Europe’s liberators, most notably the vast American Cemetery, where 9,380 of our dead are interred and the names of 1,557 missing are memorialized.

On Memorial Day just past, I offered this advice to those who genuinely want to demonstrate their gratitude to all who paid the highest price for their Liberty: Strive, first and foremost, to live your life worthy of their sacrifice.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” —John 15:13

On this and every day, join us in prayer for our Patriots in uniform — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — standing in harm’s way in defense of American Liberty, and for Veterans, First Responders, and their families.

FOOTNOTE: Regrettably, the D-Day anniversary events were sullied with a campaign photo-op drop-in by Joe Biden, who according to The Washington Post, used the event to “draw on the memory of allies united against tyranny to highlight the stakes of his campaign and draw a pointed comparison with Donald Trump.” In other words, he wants you to infer from his remarks that Trump is America’s Hitler.

In Biden’s official remarks, he declared: “Our democracy is only as strong as all of us make it, together. … Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. … Will we defend democracy? Will we stand together? … Democracy is never guaranteed. … And we saved democracy in our time as well.”

To be clear, when Biden recently asked, “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” he says “sacred cause” because the state is the Demos’ deity. When he incessantly demands that you “support democracy,” he means “democracy” as in democratic socialism, statist authoritarian rule.

Of course, the irony of his D-Day remarks is that Nazis were democratic socialists, and the centralization of government power Biden and his leftist cadres advocate, is, singularly, the most perilous threat to American Liberty – the acquisition of such power never ends well.

Biden left it up to Hillary Clinton to say what he really meant: “Eighty years ago today, thousands of brave Americans fought to protect democracy on the shores of Normandy. This November, all we have to do is vote.”

In his 15-minute droning and stammering though his teleprompted remarks, and the faces of the returning Vets sitting nearby spoke volumes about their disdain for this most disgraceful of presidents.

Though I would prefer not to sully this tribute by revisiting one of Biden’s BIG Lies, I am compelled to do so because he and his adoring press publicists are already using the occasion to repeat the lie that in 2018, Trump called our war dead “suckers” and “losers” and refused to visit Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris near Paris because he did not want to get his hair wet. . Those claims, citing unverified sources of course, originated with Leftmedia scribes at The Atlantic and parroted by CNN in 2020 — just ahead of the presidential election — almost two years after Trump’s visit to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

For the record, it didn’t happen. Even WaPo’s resident so-called “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler is hedging on this old claim, citing “murky facts” after Biden recently repeated this lie three times — though, notably, Kessler did not issue a fact-check of “false” against Biden for saying it.

Kessler notes that when former National Security Advisor John Bolton was asked about this nefarious claim, he declared: “I didn’t hear either of those comments or anything even resembling them. I was there at the point in time that morning when it was decided that he would not go to Aisne-Marne cemetery. He decided not to do it because of John Kelly’s recommendation. It was entirely a weather-related decision, and I thought the proper thing to do.”

Kessler adds, “Bolton has particular credibility because he is a known Trump critic, having written a book … that depicts the president in highly unflattering terms.”

Fact is, Joe Biden has no credibility, having long established himself as a consummate liar.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

(Updated)

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